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Film Reviews


"My Week With Marilyn” by Linda Bergman

“She was a dream come true.  My only talent was to not close my eyes.”

    This is the last line of the film set in England and sums up the seven tumultuous days twenty-three-year-old Colin Clark spent with the world’s most magical star in the summer of 1956.  Legend has it that it took him forty years to publish his diaries chronicling the six-month shoot of  “The Prince And The Showgirl” co-starring and directed by Sir Lawrence Olivier. But oddly, the account of this one special week was missing. Many years later, Clarke wrote a second book entitled, “My Week With Marilyn” that offered an uncommon look as to how he won the golden ticket and fell into the position of being Marilyn’s intimate go-to, cohort and cuddler in the absence of her new husband, playwright Arthur Miller.

    Newly graduated from Oxford, Clarke, who calls himself  “the youngest of a family of over-achievers” tests his parent’s patience and goes to work as a lowly production assistant on the set of Olivier’s beleaguered film. As Olivier (played brilliantly by Kenneth Branagh) continuously asks, “What have I gotten myself into?” Marilyn comes to the set later and later and when she does show up, her insecurities dissolve any ability to remember lines or the motivation she needs to say them. Olivier, refusing to accommodate her tardiness or devotion to Method acting, sends Colin to peel his troubled star away from her coach and enabler, Paula Strasberg, and a fast friendship is formed. During her husband’s absence, a tense, erotically charged week sets the stage for Clarke to climb a ladder into Marilyn’s locked room, remove pills from her suicidal grasp, and hold the most famous woman in the world in his arms until daylight.  They play hooky, swim naked, run in the fields and tour the countryside where she reveals the achingly real and troubled woman underneath the glossy Hollywood image.

    This is director Simon Curtis’ (Cranford) first feature film and he feels “…very lucky…”, he says, “to have gotten the rights to such a wonderful piece.”  He teamed with producers David Parfitt and Harvey Weinstein (Wings of The Dove, Gangs of New York, Shakespeare In Love) and together, they approached screenwriter, Adrian Hodges, with whom Curtis had worked on a BBC production of David Copperfield.
    British actor Eddie Redmayne is perfect as the Opie-ish Colin Clark, and his natural naiveté makes audiences smile. Julia Ormond (The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button) plays Vivien Leigh, Emma Watson (Harry Potter) plays the wardrobe mistress who falls for Colin, and Academy Award winner Dame Judi Dench plays Dame Sybil Thorndike.

    I leave the casting of Michele Williams as Marilyn for last because it deserves to be set apart. As I have always hated impersonators or “tribute artists” as they are called these days, not wanting to have my memories of screen legends tainted by wannabes, I was skeptical that I would or COULD buy in to the fantasy.  Happily, I report that Williams so embodies the look and the spirit of Monroe, you are transported to Marilyn-ville in seconds. It doesn’t hurt that the opening images are a long shot of Michelle’s Marilyn singing “That Old Black Magic” and dancing in a back-lit diaphanous gown. Nor do you mind that Michelle William’s real singing voice is so beautiful it takes your breath away. The wondrous appeal of Monroe is only enhanced by the riveting appeal of the actress portraying her.  Williams is neither afraid to show hers or Marilyn’s vulnerability as all of Marilyn’s dreams seemingly go wrong at the same time. Director Curtis says about her, “She is a phenomenal actress in that her performances are all marked with stunning psychological complexities.”

    Ironically, the combination of Olivier and Monroe in “The Prince And The Showgirl” that was touted as the vehicle to rejuvenate Olivier into a movie star and transform Monroe into a real actress, turned out to be a dud. They each went on to make separate history with Marilyn starring in Some Like It Hot and Olivier receiving his fifth Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for The Entertainer.


The movie will be in full release on November 25th.




"ALBERT NOBBS” by Linda Bergman

As I watched our KCET CINEMA SERIES screening last night of “Albert Nobbs" starring Glenn Close, I kept writing two words in the dark – ‘compelling’ and ‘curiosity.’  For me, the character, her performance and the direction compel you to watch with utter curiosity.

The film, based on a nineteenth century George Moore short story that was later turned into a play, has been a passion project of Close's for almost 30 years. (She won an Obie playing the title role in the play back in the early '80s, she co-wrote the film's screenplay, produced and even wrote lyrics to the vocals.)

The film tells the story of Mr. Nobbs (Close), a butler lucky to be working in a posh late-19th century Dublin hotel in a time of abject poverty.  In the back-story, we learn Nobbs was an illegitimate female child who never knew her true identity and took the surname of the woman who was paid to raise her. She was raped at fourteen, and so stigmatized, she then chose to disguise her gender as protection, but also so that she could earn a man's wages.

When we meet him, Albert’s worked hard as an impeccable servant for thirty years and saved judiciously, hiding his considerable fortune under a floor board in his hotel room. When the hotel owner forces Albert to take in a male house painter for the night, Albert’s secret is threatened and the story is off to the races. It isn’t long, however, before the painter, Hubert Page, exposes to Nobbs a secret of his own!

    It’s a strange tale, (and feels still like a short story) at times predictable and cliché, but deeply affecting with an emotional power that’s hard to put your finger on.  Although Albert has lost all female instincts, his actions pose questions about lesbianism and cross-dressing as he pursues a beautiful young maid played by Mia Wasikowska. (Alice In Wonderland, The Kids Are All Right, Jane Eyre).

It’s hard to take your eyes off of Close layered in prosthetics. She plays Albert as a timid, delicate soul mired in a tough world but because he/she is so compelling (there’s that word again!). Albert can’t disappear into the story because even when we are awed at how good a man she is – it’s still Glenn Close in costume.

I am sure this won’t be a problem come Academy Award time, but if you find yourself wondering, ”What it’s all about, Albert?” don’t say I didn’t give you a heads-up.

Director Rodrigo Garcia,(Revolution, Mother And Child, In Treatment) is true to form as we watch him illicit stunning performances out of his top-notch cast, especially Janet McTeer (Sense and Sensibility), Brendan Gleason (Harry Potter, The Gangs of New York) and Aaron Johnson (The Illusionist).




"YOUNG ADULT” by Linda Bergman

When Patrick Wilson’s character, “Buddy” says to CharlizeTheron’s, “Mavis,” in Paramount’s “Young Adult”.


“You’re better than this.”


My first and last thoughts were:“And so is Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman!  What are they doing?  This is so risky! And why would Paramount release this downer as a holiday film? They must be programming against  the season’s joy and happiness.  It’s the anti-Christ, Anti feel good flick of all time.


The title “Young Adult” refers to the genre of angst-ridden–coming-of-age books written for teenagers. And angst doesn’t even touch the revulsion an audience feels when they watch Young Adult book writer Mavis’ mental break- down.


I am sure it sounded good on paper.  And Diablo Cody (Academy Award winning writer for Juno) admitted last night that even though she wrote it on spec and never thought she’d sell it, she was compelled to write a film about a 37- year-old -woman who is still stuck mentally in high school.  A woman that has not one redeeming quality, who sleeps with men she doesn’t know and even treats her dog terribly, leaves Minneapolis for her Podunk home town.  She’s set to do one thing: separate her high school sweetheart from his wife and new baby. What would happen, Diablo thought, if the “bad-gal” stayed bad?  Even though she did write an alternative comfort-food ending, she tossed it, in favor of a non-twist that boldly says, “This is my disgusting story and I’m stickin' to it. “ Yikes!


Director Jason Reitman  (Up In The Air, Thank You For Smoking, Juno) said it best when he reported Theron’s comment after signing on.  She said, “Let’s jump off the cliff together!”  And jump off they did for a fast 30-day shoot and a $12 million dollar budget – peanuts in today’s blockbuster world.  As a producer, I must admit they got all their money on screen and Theron is amazingly committed as the sick, lying bitch Mavis trying to win back the affections of boring as hell but cute, Buddy (played perfectly by Patrick Wilson. (CBS’ A Gifted Man).


What Mavis doesn’t count on -- as her career and reputation diminish -- is meeting up with another hometown refugee from high school, fat, disabled geek,” Matt”.  Matt’s locker was next to Mavis’ and he watched her every day.  She admits all she remembered about him was he the victim of a hate crime back in the day.  Poor Matt, who was suspected of being gay in high school, had his legs and male member broken by the same boys Mavis was blowing at lunch.  Played brilliantly by stand-up comic, Patton Oswalt, Matt, is the center of the film and gives us our only relief.  He is the voice of the audience, saying just what we, in our seats, want to cry out, “Go get help, you sick f@#/,”


While there were a few very funny sight gags, and I loved looking at Charlize’s ravaged beauty and her considerable acting chops, this comedy made me distinctly uncomfortable which is exactly what the creative team admitted they went for and the studio backed.  All I can reason is, Paramount wants to do future business with this Dream Team of Cody/Reitmna/ Theron, and by letting them make this horrible thing, they now have a bargaining chip for the future. I am sure there is a method to their madness. Who knows?  Who cares? But I have to admit, I am curious to see who buys tickets to this odd bird. If they make a lot of money, I bet it will be off of all the horny, angry Y.A s. out there1


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