I don’t usually write about film screenings and Q&A’s on my blog since it is the British Academy of Film & Television Arts (BAFTA) policy that only members and their guests attend. No journalists or note taking allowed. Well, I didn’t take notes, and I’m not writing this as a blogger, but as a retired actress who was completely captivated by an extraordinary performance I saw last night in My Week with Marilyn. The true life story of a young lad’s first job in the film industry leading to a week long affair with Marilyn Monroe.


My Week with Marilyn

When I first heard Michelle Williams had been cast as Marilyn Monroe I thought, huh? Not that she isn’t a fine actress, she has already earned two Oscar and two BAFTA nominations to her credit, but we are talking about bringing one of film history’s greatest icons back to the screen written from Colin Clark’s own diaries. Most definitely a risky (and terrifying) business for any actress. You see, when you play a fictional character you have some wiggle room with creative license, but to “wiggle” into someone as well-know as Marilyn Monroe, you have to get every specific physicality of the person exact, or you will lose the audience immediately. How did she walk, what about her posture, her mannerisms, what was the tone of her voice, speech patterns etc.?


Michelle Williams and Marilyn Monroe

Well this was the first film in ages that found me not wanting, in fact dreading, it coming to an end. I was nothing short of mesmerized by Ms. William’s Marilyn portrayal. Every nuance of Marilyn came back to life. Her intense longing for love, the charisma she could turn on at the drop of a hat, the “it” factor in front of the camera, the erratic behavior of drug and alcohol abuse (encouraged by those around her to control her – something I’ve witnessed first hand), her fragility, the loneliness she felt in the midst of a whole world adoring her, and most poignantly for me – her abject professional insecurities in spite of being the worlds biggest film star. It’s so sad, but true, how others can see so much more than we can see in ourselves at times. Ms. Williams succeeded at getting into Marilyn’s psyche and understanding the woman, as opposed to the legend, with such unconditional love and respect.

Michelle Williams favorite scene to shoot

When asked if she felt Marilyn was really a conniving manipulator behind the lost girl act, Michelle Williams’ reply exposed just how well she understood the woman. She spoke of how it’s always the child who runs up and grabs your hand, the most outgoing, inquisitive child in an orphanage that is the most broken. They’ve learned a set of skills to get your attention for survival. She felt Marilyn’s cunning was one tool from that survival kit, not born from malice, but as an instinctive response from the soul of a broken child.

Of course a supporting cast the likes of Kenneth Branagh, Dame Judi Dench, Zoe Wanamaker, and Derek Jacobi never hurts; but just as Marilyn stole every scene in her day, Michelle Williams did the same in this film. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her, and I was certainly not alone.


Williams did her homework and caught the essence of the woman, not just the legend

Viewing a film with an infamously restrained British audience is usually quite a different experience to seeing one in Time Square. As the film credits rolled, I was floored by how their enthusiasm got the better of their upbringing! The audience shouted and whistled their approval over rapturous applause, something I’ve never seen them do. Ms. Williams seemed quite genuinely overwhelmed by the standing ovation she received as she took the stage for her Q&A. She’d better get used to it – this is definitely a BAFTA and Oscar nomination caliber performance, and quite possibly third time lucky win for the actress across the board. Don’t miss it. What brilliant performances have you seen lately? What do you think made that role so real for you?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-b48Aj8zkg[/youtube]

Here is an excerpt from an interesting article about Marilyn Monroe’s eating and exercise habits by Elisa Jordan. “During the mid-1950s, Marilyn developed a taste for Italian food, thanks to her marriage to Joe DiMaggio and his mother’s cooking. In an effort to please Joe, she experimented in the kitchen and began cooking simple pasta meals. The marriage didn’t last long, but the taste for Italian food did. She ate pasta on and off for the rest of her life.” So, in honor of Marilyn’s love of Italian food….

Spinach & Cheese Cannelloni

Filling the cannelloni is a fun thing to do with your children, and they will be much happier about eating something with the “dreaded green”, if they feel pride in creating something delicious with you. You can also easily substitute or add mushrooms, shredded zucchini, or any cooked ground meat (I love Italian turkey sausage) for the spinach.

SERVINGS: 4

Ingredients:

For the sauce
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 28-ounce can of crushed tomato
3 tablespoons of dry red wine, optional
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh oregano, chopped,

For the filling
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
12 ounces fresh spinach
Salt and pepper to taste
15 ounces ricotta cheese
1 cup Parmesan, grated
4 ounces soft goats cheese
1 egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 large baggie

To Assemble
12 cannelloni tubes
8 ounces of fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced or 1 package shredded
1 large baggie

DIRECTIONS:

1). Preheat oven to 350° F. if planning to eat cannelloni right away, otherwise see heating instructions below.

2). Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium. Add garlic slices and cook until softened and fragrant, 1 minute. Add the spinach, stirring frequently, until wilted. Remove from pan, drain and cool.

3). While spinach is cooling, heat the olive oil in the same pan, then add minced garlic, and cook 30 seconds. Add crushed tomatoes and wine, simmer for 15 minutes, then remove from heat and stir in fresh herbs. Season to taste and set aside.

4). In the bowl of a food processor (you can finely chop the spinach with a knife, then mix ingredients together in a large bowl if you do not have a food processor) add the cooled spinach, ricotta, Parmesan, goats cheese, egg and nutmeg. Pulse until ingredients are well mixed together, but not completely processed. Adjust seasonings.

5). Spread half of the tomato sauce in the bottom of a metal or ovenproof glass baking dish large enough to hold the cannelloni in a single layer, deep enough to cover with sauce and cheese.

6). Fill the large baggie with the spinach and cheese mixture, snip off one end, and pipe the filling into each cannelloni tube, placing them in the baking dish as you go. Pour the remaining sauce over the top, then layer or sprinkle with mozzarella. If not eating right away, at this point cover and store until ready to eat.

7). Bake in the preheated 350° F. oven for 30-35 minutes, or until hot and bubbly and cheese on top is melted and beginning to brown around the edges.

SERVING SUGGESTIONS:

Serve with Mixed Green Salad tossed in homemade Italian dressing.

PS. My Week with Marilyn’s official release date in the US is November 4th, and in the UK it will be released November 18th, 2011.

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  • October 24, 2011
    4:03 pm

    Love cannelloni and this recipe sounds amazing with the addition of goat’s cheese and spinach. I know that I’ll be making this dish frequently. Just for clarification, the cannelloni tubes are not cooked prior to stuffing? I’m guessing that they cook in the tomato sauce. I have a lasagne recipe in which the noodles are not cooked ahead, but the pan is sealed tightly with foil when you put it in the oven. That way all the moisture is kept in the pan and cooks the noodles. Sorry if this is a dumb question! I just don’t want to mess it up. Thanks Jewels!

  • October 24, 2011
    4:09 pm

    You can cover if you like, but I’ve never done it that way. It might overcook the pasta. Just cover with sauce.

  • October 25, 2011
    2:55 pm

    Wow, I gotta say I can’t wait to see this film, Michelle looks amazing as Marilyn. Thanks for posting this trailer.
    The pasta dish looks very yummy too.
    Patricia

    • October 26, 2011
      10:23 am

      Loved every second of it, and could easily sit through it again (I almost never say that).

  • October 26, 2011
    10:21 am

    I cannot wait to see this film. I was afraid that it might not convey the right spirit of Marilyn but when I saw the trailer, I had a feeling that she nailed it.

    Mmmm…. love cannelloni and with goat cheese – this is definitely going on the home menu this weekend. Thanks Jewels!

    • October 26, 2011
      10:24 am

      You especially will love the clothes, hair, and make-up in addition to the astounding performance.

  • October 26, 2011
    11:05 am

    I’ll see it for the clothes and makeup alone! I read that article you linked. I can’t stand when I see certain large Hollywood celebrities comparing themselves to Marilyn Monroe. The woman was barely 120 lbs for most of her career. Elizabeth Hurley once was sad “I’d kill myself if I was as fat as Marilyn Monroe.” She should be so lucky…

    • October 26, 2011
      11:10 am

      Comments like that reveal more self-loathing of the person making the comment, than any reason to loathe the one the comment is about. News flash for Ms. Hurley – I’d be willing to wager that Marilyn Monroe set more mens hearts racing than any other celeb in history.

  • October 26, 2011
    11:19 am

    I am so happy to hear that you loved this film! I can’t wait to see it. I adore Michelle Williams, and was very hopeful when I heard she’d been cast in the role. All the reviews are giving her raves. Yay!

    I saw The Big Year, last weekend. It stars another of my favorites, Steve Martin. It was the kindest film I’ve seen in ages, and I walked out the theater happy, peaceful, and smiling with a little spring in my step. It isn’t action or even really adventure, but it is a lovely way to spend 100 minutes.

  • October 26, 2011
    11:21 am

    Great! Meeting my book editor for burger and a movie on Sunday – I’ll suggest the Steve Martin one.

  • October 27, 2011
    9:56 am

    I’ve not tried goats cheese, have no idea if I’d like it. Is there a substitute? My children will love it, spinach is a huge hit in our house.

  • October 27, 2011
    10:05 am

    I don’t see why not, although the goats cheese is pretty mild mixed in with the ricotta. Any soft cheese would work – if you want to stick to Italian try gorgonzola for a stronger flavor or fontina.

    If you grocery store has a deli – ask if you can sample a couple of the cheeses to know what you would like.

    • October 27, 2011
      1:13 pm

      TY! Look forward to making this tonight.

  • October 28, 2011
    8:47 am

    Jewels, what can I say… I absolutely love this post – huge Marilyn fan!

    I did have my reservations about Michelle Williams playing her because, in my eyes, nobody was ever going to be good enough to step into Marilyn’s shoes. But having seen some of the footage and promotional photos, I must say it looks very very promising and I just can’t wait to see the movie.

    Thank you so much for posting your personal ‘review’. And, by the way, I can’t believe you still managed to turn the post around and give us a recipe at the end as always. You are one clever lady!!! ;)

  • October 28, 2011
    2:52 pm

    Putting this on my lunch menu next week – thanks! :D

  • November 7, 2011
    3:47 am

    While my kiddos (like most kids) are not fond of spinach, they gobbled this down! I did have my oldest help me stuff the cannelloni, which I think made the the end result more appealing to her somehow. Anyway – it turned out great and everyone ate it!

    • November 7, 2011
      9:22 am

      Great to hear! Getting our kids to eat veg is not impossible. You just have to be a little creative at times, and include them in preparing the fun (usually messy) parts of recipes. After all – kids love color, so it should follow that a colorful meal would be appealing.

  • November 7, 2011
    4:12 am

    Looks fabulous. I adore anything with spinach in it and even though most people turn their noses up at it, when it is prepared correctly, as with your recipe…they suddenly like spinach! Can’t wait to try this out.

    • November 7, 2011
      9:23 am

      It’s fun to make, and I usually double the recipe, and freeze half for a later date. Less work, lots of goodness in the long run.

  • July 12, 2012
    10:42 pm

    This recipe looks great! I’m very new to this whole cooking thing and I just had a quick question. You mentioned that you could freeze half of it for a later date. Is that before or after you bake it in the oven? Thank you!

  • July 13, 2012
    8:42 am

    ” If not eating right away, at this point cover and store until ready to eat.”