In My Week with Marilyn, a young Colin Clark dreams of joining the world of movie directors and actors so he sets out to join Laurence Olivier’s production company. With much persistence Colin is engaged by the company and is assigned as the third assistant director for Olivier’s next film The Showgirl and The Prince starring none other than Marilyn Monroe.
Not only is there much preparation for Marilyn’s arrival, the superstar is worshiped wherever she goes; with adoration heaped upon her by her fans, men are smitten by her looks and her charm; her voice and manner. And Laurence Olivier hopes that his experience with Marilyn will renew him, but Marilyn’s lack of confidence on the set threatens to destroy any hopes of this.
Marilyn is also in need of saving: One of the men involved in the production says ‘They like to keep her doped up. It makes her easier to control. They’re terrified their cash cow will slip away.’ They see Marilyn as more as a commodity or investment to be protected.
In this environment, Colin emerges as the only one who seems to care about Marilyn, defending her lateness or poor performance. Others warn Colin of falling for the ‘lost girl act’. Another time, Colin says she just wants a friend. The agent tells him to grow up.
Consequently, Marilyn invites Colin into her world in an increasingly intimate way. While everyone gazes at the Marilyn in the slinky dress (‘shall I be her?’), Colin sees the one inside, both emotionally and physically. They end up sharing a swim in a freezing river, and it’s hard to escape the Edenic naked-without-shame-ness vibe of the scene. In these moments we begin to see how show business has affected Marilyn: “That’s the first time I’ve kissed anyone younger than me. There are a lot of older guys in Hollywood.”
Colin himself, however, also worships Marilyn, telling her he loves her like she is a Greek goddess, and in some ways he’s just like all the rest. Marilyn just wants “to be loved like a regular girl” but “all people see is Marilyn Monroe. As soon as they find out I’m not her they run.”
Marilyn Monroe is one of the most recognizable figures in history, but she also lived a troubled life, which we get hints of here. While Olivier and Monroe both achieve success in the wake of The Prince and the Showgirl, how much better for them to be loved? Not as a god or goddess, and not as a consolation prize; not based on what they are like or what they have done, but for who they are. And how about the celebrities, personalities we may worship today? There’s a whole industry which lives off the salacious, troubled, and tragic celebrity stories. And I think My Week gets at the difference between loving the image or idea of someone, and truly loving them.
The Apostle Paul, writing to a church in 1st century, writes:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”
If we are to love others, ambition, fantasy and lust must give way to truth and love. It involves knowing and understanding a person’s needs, caring for them practically (which I think Colin almost gets); appreciating them, genuinely and sincerely; not exploiting the other person, but seeking the best for the other person (which I think Colin almost gets). This is not just a good thing to do. This is the way God loves:
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)