So, I just finished watching My Week with Marilyn. Now, I should start by saying that when British cinema is good, it’s really good. Films like If…, Sexy Beast, My Beautiful Laundrette, The Third Man, the films of Powell and Pressburger are wonderful. So is the work of British expatriate directors. British Hitchcock is as good as American Hitchcock. Anyway, that’s my attempt at disclaimer. Now, when British film is bad, it is not so much bad as it is boring. And I like boring things. I love Barry Lyndon…which is very long. Same with Reds. And I publically admit to loving Heaven’s Gate. So I can appreciate slow pace. But my brain is just wired to find something like the collected works of Sir Evelyn Victorian or My Week with Marilyn boring. Which is why it took me a week to watch this movie. Anyway, that’s not the main reason I didn’t like the movie. Rather, the movie is part of ever-increasing group of historical-biographical films that are told in a way that I don’t like. My Week with Marilyn is based on a couple of books written by Colin Clark. Clark, who was Lawrence Olivier’s[i] assistant for a while, is in awe of Monroe. He wrote these two books based on his experience of a week he spent with Marilyn Monroe.[ii] Anyway, films like My Week with Marilyn, Julie & Julia, and Bobby, etc. insert the point of view that we, as audiences, are expected to have in relation to celebrity—namely, we are supposed to at least think about it a lot if not worship it. Probably the first film I remember watching that used this framing was Velvet Goldmine, a very-semi fictional account of glam-rocker Brian Slade.[iii] That film is told from the perspective of a young Christian Bale, back when he basically had one accent, playing a journalist seeking to unravel what happened to this mysterious rock star he grew up emulating. These films are all told from the perspective of people in awe of fame. Now, I don’t read celebrity gossip. There are many reasons why. I value privacy. I don’t think that being famous qualifies you as an expert. You can’t really know a stranger. I don’t care what’s in your purse. I am busy.[iv] Anyway, I am not even close to being the first person to acknowledge this, but an increasing amount of people are famous for being famous. Being famous isn’t the reason I want to know about you, it’s because you wrote Blood on the Tracks. I already know what it is like to like David Bowie–because I do. I don’t learn anything more from watching Velvet Goldmine. These celebrity worshipping film mimic the viewpoints of people so much that they are actually more about these “ordinary people”[v]than the people we were/I am interested in. And I think part of what is going on here is the desire to tell interesting stories in interesting ways. But stick to the source material. Bob Dylan led an interesting enough life without having a million actors play him. You don’t need to make Robert Zimmerman’s life interesting–he already did the job for you.
[i] One of the things I did learn about the film is that he was actually just plain, old “Larry.”
[ii] I actually appreciate literal titles. I think this comes from spending most of my life in academia where people don’t use literal titles enough.
[iii] David Bowie.
[iv] Watching TV and playing videogames.
[v] “Look at those assholes over there–ordinary fucking people.”