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?

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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