These days, you can scarcely hit a Cineplex without tripping over at least one biopic, a phenomenon I chalk up to the same one that makes reality TV so proliferate: people tend to thrill over the idea that
anything really happened, like, ever. But as thrilling as some human lives may be conceptually, rarely do any produce a satisfying narrative arc.
As a species, we tend to make the same mistakes over and over until we fade out– more the stuff of early Warhol installations or daytime soaps than a two-hour feature. Most biopics are either factually sound and dramatically dull (Sylvia, Ray), or historically inaccurate (Walk the Line). The best ones limit themselves to a very specific theme or period in a person’s life (Capote, Frost/Nixon). So structurally at least, My Week With Marilyn, based on memoirist Colin Clark’s short-lived dalliance with Marilyn Monroe during the 1956 filming of The Prince and the Showgirl, seems ahead of the game.
Lars von Trier is not a brother who provokes a neutral response. There are those who feel he can do no wrong, and then there are naysayers like me. Although I consider Dancer in the Dark one of the best movies of the last decade, I swore I’d never sit through another of his films after suffering through the school-play machinations of Dogville. A guy who so unilaterally criticizes America without ever having stepped foot on its soil deserves a similar boycott, I declared.
But now that he’s taken psychological projection to unprecedented proportions, he’s become downright fascinating.