Tuesday, July 24, 2012


I watched two movies last weekend that took on the similar subject of a fragile, aging female star. One was excellent, the other less so. Can you guess which one I preferred?


Originally released: 2010
Starring: Tim McGraw, Gweneth Paltrow
Directed by: Shana Feste
Based on: the script by Shana Feste

A country singer named Kelly, who OF COURSE has alcohol problems, gets out of not-rehab to go on tour with her husband; the Luke Bryan wanna-be she's sleeping with, Beau, whose beard looks like it got chewed on by a squirrel; and the Taylor Swift wanna-be her husband is probably sleeping with, named Chiles (that's Chiles as in child, not Chiles as in chiles that you eat). Then not-Luke-Bryan and not-Taylor-Swift start sleeping together, but Kelly and her husband don't, because that would solve all the problems. Then everyone's like, "Fame! I'm gonna live forevaaar!" and the most ridiculous yet predictable things you can imagine happen.

Is my fake beard in the right place? It keeps moving.

You know that movie about Johnny Cash, Walk the Line? That was a good movie. If you have the urge to watch Country Strong, I recommend skipping it and going straight to Walk the Line instead. I'm still wondering what Tim McGraw was doing in it and why he didn't say, "Hey, you know, not ALL country singers are major drinkers or think they can solve problems with their vaginas/penises." Or, "Most tours make more than three stops in the space of a month and it doesn't take THAT long to drive across Texas." Or, "Where the heck are they finding the time or the studios to make records while they're on tour?" Or, "What is my character's motivation, because it seems like I just do whatever will be most convenient for this ridiculous plot." Or, "You do realize I'm the only person with actual musical talent in this entire movie, yet also the only person NOT singing, right? Does that make any sense to you?"

Did I fast forward through all the songs and some of the conversations in Country Strong? Yes, I did, especially the duet between Beau and Chiles, because that song is not good enough to be heard three times in the space of an hour. I also couldn't help but notice that whenever Gweneth Paltrow sang, her voice was either really soft or drowned out by shouting fans.

ANYWAY. This movie was ├╝ber cliched and unrealistic, except for the part where Kelly's husband makes it clear that she's not getting any younger and she's a failure because she can't pop out the babies. But instead of getting pissed off, Kelly's like, "You're right, life ends at forty." The end. What a great movie! /sarcasm


Originally released: 2011
Starring: Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh, Dominic Cooper, Dougray Scott, Emma Watson
Directed by: Simon Curtis
Based on: The Prince, the Showgirl and Me and My Week with Marilyn by Colin Clark

I usually avoid movies about Marilyn Monroe because it seems like even in death she can't get away from being objectified. But I was bored, so I checked this one out from the library. I was really pleasantly surprised! My Week with Marilyn isn't just about Marilyn Monroe, it's a coming of age story story that captures the atmosphere of the British film industry in the '50s.

Colin Clark is the youngest in a family of overachievers, and somewhat of a disappointment. So at twenty-three he decides to "run away and join the circus"--i.e., get involved in movies. Through sheer doggedness he gets a job as the third assistant director on The Prince and the Showgirl, an absolutely horrible movie starring Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe, and then becomes Olivier's assistant as well. Through the filming, Colin witnesses first-hand the glamor and troubles that surround Monroe, including her sycophantic acting coach, narcissistic hubby, and controlling manager. Even her driver gives her pills "to keep her quiet." Who knew a cooing blonde could be so troublesome? Eventually Colin and Monroe develop a relationship of sorts, and Colin tries to be her knight in shining armor. I really don't want to speculate on how much of a man Monroe actually makes out of him, but I'm going with "admired from afar" for the sake of my own ick factor.

I loved this movie! The performances were absolutely great. Kenneth Branagh, who played Olivier, and Dougray Scott, who played Arthur Miller, both seemed to be channeling their respective characters from beyond the grave (weirdly, Branagh as Olivier reminded me of a depressed Gilderoy Lockhart). I also thought the portrayal of Monroe was really nuanced and thoughtful. Yes, she is still pretty much objectified, but even with her status as a screen goddess, there is some sense of her as a real person who knows beauty doesn't last forever. Early on the film Vivienne Leigh tells Colin, "I'm forty-three, darling, no one's going to love me for very long," and that sense of insecurity when you believe looks is all you've got sets the tone for the entire film, especially Monroe's desire to be a Great Actress.

marilyn monroe in a bath
Let me just roll around naked in this tub with the door open. *giggle*

Monroe remains a mysterious figure, however--how much of her act was an act? Obviously she wasn't an idiot, but then why did she continue in a situation that made her miserable? Why did she surround herself with the people she did? Was she using Colin for her own ends? The movie leaves these questions open-ended and I think does a fab job of showing how no one knew the "real" Marilyn Monroe, possibly not even Marilyn Monroe herself.

My Week with Marilyn was a brilliant movie--entertaining, great performances, fascinating story, and it really makes you think. Definitely worth a rewatch!


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