I have come here on a mythical (mystical?) quest to review that terror of terrors, the film which cannot really be pinned down as feminist or, indeed, unfeminist. This particular one, a based-on-a-true-story drama about a posh Eton boy called Colin who gets a job on a film set and falls for Marilyn Monroe, is like a snake, sliding around all over the place. It’s feminist, yeah? No! God, no, what was I thinking? Ooh, that bit’s pretty feminist (I’ll just get on with the review now, shall I?)
Is it a feminist film? Double answer: yes and no. Colin is essentially an idiot, who dumps the perfectly nice Lucy (Emma Watson, although unfortunately in this film she sounds like she’s reading her lines off a script) for the fun but unhappy and drug addicted Marilyn, but then it’s impossible to fathom why either of these seemingly intelligent women would even like him in the first place*. Laurence Olivier is also a complete sexist idiot, and is really mean to Marilyn when he realises that, as opposed to the flirtatious, obedient sex symbol he was expecting her to be, she’s actually a depressed drug user who forgets each line she has to say at least forty-five times. He waits until right at the end, when she has left to go back to America, to tell Colin that she’s the best actress ever, but to be honest, Larry, it’s kind of a bit damn late for that now. However, there are some awesome female characters, including Marilyn’s acting consultant Paula, who is the only person who understands why Marilyn finds it hard to play a totally rubbish and sexist role. The most intricate and feminist character in the film, though, is undoubtedly Marilyn herself: she is eloquent and strong when she wants to be, but it is also moving to see a woman who was sexualized and objectified throughout her entire career and long after her death having to put on a facade of cheeriness. It leaves you with a lot of questions: for example, in one scene, when Marilyn is about to do a little dance for an assembled crowd, she whispers to Colin, “Shall I be her?”, suggesting that perhaps she sees the person others expect her to be almost as a separate identity to her own. Ultimately, though, the feminism is let down a little by Lucy, which is sort of a shame as she is played by one of the most awesome young feminist role models of the 21st century, but there you go. The only brief moment of awesomeness she actually gets is in the two seconds before she starts dating Colin, but even worse than the fact that she goes all soppy after that, right at the end, after he literally dumped her for Marilyn Monroe, she continues to flirt with him in an irritating way. At the end, he asks her out again, inquiring as to what she’s doing on Saturday. She replies, “Washing my hair,”, as opposed to what she should have said, which is obviously “I’m going on a date, but unfortunately it isn’t with you! Sorry, not sorry!” or, better, “I’m going to smash the patriarchy.”
Is it disturbing? No. It’s quite funny at moments though.
And… does it pass the Bechdel test? Yes! Hooray for that snippet of definite feminism (or, at least, non-sexism) in amongst the weird debris of this extremely confusing film.
Please note: One of the trailers that came before this film was for one of my favourite films, The Artist, a review of which is also on this blog. That film is also about actors in films from long ago (“the olden times” to us young people, “when I was a girl/boy/child” to our parents/grandparents/other random relatives), so if that’s what you want to watch a film about, my advice is to go and watch that one instead of this one. Or I suppose you could always watch both.
*What we really need is a sequel where it turns out Colin is really a little slimy green alien in a human body who makes everyone like him by sticking a tentacle into their minds. Or, then again, maybe not.