Kenneth Branagh plays Sir Laurence Olivier who is unquestionably one of the greatest actors of the 20th century. Sir Olivier’s goal in this film is to work with and seduce Marilyn during the production of The Sleeping Prince (the name of the actual production was The Prince and the Showgirl.) His obstacles are his age, his training background, and the object of his attention, Marilyn herself. Sir Olivier thinks that Marilyn is one of the most beautiful, and talented, woman in the world. Yet he discovers she doesn’t have the training that he has and she’s a “method” actor. He dislikes the “method” and realizes that Marilyn in person is not the Marilyn that is on the screen. His grand illusion of her is crushed and he obviously abandons any thoughts of her at all beyond making the film.
He sees himself as a teacher to the young Marilyn and figures out that he can’t change who she is. Sir Olivier is greatly influenced by his classical theatre training; he believes all actors should be trained. He changes through this film by realizing he can’t change Marilyn and that he can’t seduce her. (She had taken a shine to Colin Clark instead.) His frustrations with Marilyn fuel a lot of his actions. He feels that making the movie with Marilyn will make him feel young again and he realizes that he is wrong.
Eddie Redmayne plays Colin Clark, the man who told his story. His goal in life is to work in film. He wants to do anything to get a foot in the door. So, he goes for an interview and keeps returning even after he is told there is no work. They appreciate his tenacity and hire him as a third assistant director. Colin faces his father’s disapproval. But his mother is sure that the studio will love him and make him a director within the week. His love for the cinema comes from spending every Thursday night in the cinema finding refuge from his family of over achievers. His father was historian Kenneth Clark and his brother a former Conservative MP and minister. He views himself as the disappointment in the family. He tries to not be like his family. Colin has the need to fit somewhere and he wants it to be in the film industry. He strives to be successful (like the rest of his family but in his own medium.)
Colin grows just in the short time that he has with Marilyn. He experiences love and heart break all at her hands yet he remains her friend. He also becomes a friend of Sir Olivier just by being the overachiever he was raised to be.
There isn’t really a message in this film. It tells the story of one week that Colin Clark had with a Hollywood icon that no one would otherwise know about. Most of us have grown up knowing the name Marilyn Monroe and who she was as an actress but this movie gives insight into Norma Jean Baker, the real person behind Marilyn Monroe. It communicates how the world saw this blond bombshell and how the intimate moments of Marilyn and Colin really show her insecurities, worries and needs. She really needed to be loved for who she was off screen and that was not how people loved her. They loved the created creature.