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The Weekend Australian - Review - - Television -

OVER­SEAS crit­ics have been heap­ing praise on Michelle Wil­liams for her per­for­mance as Marilyn Mon­roe in My Week with Marilyn, which opens here on Thurs­day. But Wil­liams is cer­tainly not the first ac­tor to play Mon­roe, nor, I would think, the last. Cather­ine Hicks, Ash­ley Judd and So­phie Monk have all played her in made-for-tv movies, and Angelina Jolie, would you be­lieve, is to star in a film about the last two years of Mon­roe’s life as seen through the eyes of her Mal­tese ter­rier (with Ge­orge Clooney, im­prob­a­bly, as Frank Si­na­tra).

Ni­cole Kid­man posed in a blonde wig for a Mon­roe photo for the 10th an­niver­sary is­sue of Aus­tralian Harper’s Bazaar, un­der the caption Some Like It Hot. Billy Wilder, who di­rected Mon­roe in Some Like It Hot (Sun­day, 10.35pm, Fox Clas­sics), de­scribed her as ‘‘ an ab­so­lute ge­nius as a comic ac­tor’’ — and it’s true. She’s at least as funny as Tony Cur­tis and Jack Lemmon in their cross­dress­ing roles, and her turn with a tiny ukulele is an in­spired bit of clown­ing. It re­mains, I think, the fun­ni­est of all Hol­ly­wood sound films.

She can be seen in two other films this Sun­day. In Gen­tle­men Pre­fer Blon­des (7.30pm, Fox Clas­sics), a ver­sion of Anita Loos’s Broad­way mu­si­cal, she stars with Jane Rus­sell (an­other Hol­ly­wood sex-sym­bol of her day) in a witty sendup of glam­our-puss stereo­types, and in How to Marry a Mil­lion­aire (Sun­day, 9pm, Fox Clas­sics) she’s one of a trio of man-hunters (in­clud­ing Betty Grable and Lau­ren Ba­call) prac­tis­ing their wiles on el­i­gi­ble bach­e­lors. All very dated, corny and in­cor­rect, of course — and funny even now.

Per­haps her act­ing was al­ways un­der­es­ti­mated. Her first ap­pear­ance — a bit part as Ge­orge San­ders’ girl­friend in All About Eve — is among the joys of that mar­vel­lous film. Sy­bil Thorndike said of her per­for­mance in The Prince and the Show­girl, in which she starred with Lau­rence Olivier, that ‘‘ she’s the only one of us who re­ally knows how to act in front of a cam­era’’.

Olivier, who by all ac­counts pa­tro­n­ised Mon­roe shame­lessly, can be seen in The En­ter­tainer (Sun­day, 4pm, Stvdio) as a third-rate vaudevil­lian, de­liv­er­ing creak­ing song-and-dance rou­tines in half-empty En- glish mu­sic halls — a bleak study of cyn­i­cism and de­spair that sorely needed Mon­roe to re­lieve the gloom. And how right she would have been as Roxie Hart in Chicago (Satur­day, 5pm, Movie Greats) if only Rob Mar­shall had made it 40 years ear­lier: a per­fect ve­hi­cle for her brassy en­ergy and wit. I can even imag­ine the young Marilyn in the June Allyson role in Lit­tle Women (Wed­nes­day, 11pm, Fox Clas­sics), one of that fa­ther­less fam­ily of girls grow­ing to ma­tu­rity dur­ing the Amer­i­can Civil War.

It would be ab­surd to say Kid­man is to­day’s Mon­roe. Mon­roe had a nat­u­ral comic flair that Kid­man lacks — and all things con­sid­ered, Kid­man is the bet­ter ac­tor. In Rab­bit Hole (Sun­day, 8.30pm, Movie One) she gives what may be her great­est per­for­mance as Becca Corbett, a be­reaved mother whose mar­riage to Howie (Aaron Eck­hart) has been un­rav­el­ling since the ac­ci­den­tal death of their small son. Like all the best films about grief, it is never wholly dispir­it­ing: its power, its fas­ci­na­tion, lie in the un­spar­ing rev­e­la­tion of the char­ac­ters’ lives, the arc of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and re­cov­ery.

Becca has a sur­prise en­counter with a young man (Miles Teller) that may al­ter both their lives, and some may find the end­ing sim­plis­tic and un­con­vinc­ing. But Kid­man re­sists the temp­ta­tion to over­play its sen­ti­men­tal pos­si­bil­i­ties. We are shown how the small­est things, the mer­est thought, can trans­form a mood, even the most set­tled and ha­bit­ual at­ti­tude, and il­lu­mi­nate a fresh path in life. James John Mitchell di­rected this bril­liant film — one of the finest Amer­i­can dra­mas of re­cent years.

Ni­cole Kid­man in Rab­bit Hole

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