Reviewed byjcf-37682Vote: 9/10
The challenging---yet ultimately satisfying---approach of "Professor Marston and the Wonder Women", is that it isn't about any one thing, it's about several things (at least 3).
It's a *think piece* about relationships and sexuality. What's normal? What makes for true happiness? What sacrifices should the individual (couple, throuple) make to fit in to the larger society? Can men really be feminist, or does male privilege get in the way? Is sexual jealousy inevitable, or can it be transcended through empathy?
It's a heart-tugger, of very *human* beings facing real pain. But meeting that pain with real love---and then triumphing through their creativity.
And it's well, um, a loin-tingler: the sex is HOT! (And so few movies get that right). It's especially the accomplishment of the *female gaze* (thank you, writer/director Angela Robinson!) Female sexual agency (and even female romantic foibles---but played seriously, not for male laughs).
Even if this movie has some of the innate problems of the bio-pic (trying to make every Real Life Story aspect FIT into the mechanics of good drama), its narrative framing(s) lift it considerably above the average in this genre. There are at least 2: 1) the Child Psychology Board hearing (looking back at the beginning/evolution of the William/Elizabeth/Olive relationship, via the origins of the Wonder Woman comic, and 2) WM Marston's "DISC" theory: literally evaluating their individual lives and relationship, via Dominance-Inducement-Submission-Compliance. Marston tells us what makes for a happy life...but how much more powerful when the film actually shows us (in the struggle to get there).
All this, and lie detectors/Wonder Woman too! With a crackling script, and outstanding performances (above all, by Rebecca Hall: Academy, "For Your Consideration"!) If you're ready to think, feel---and then maybe have a fun night w/ someone(s?) special afterwards, "Professor Marston and the Wonder Women" is your movie. Make it a date night! ;-)
Reviewed bypopcorninhellVote: 8/10
With some exception, Hollywood pretty much makes two distinct kinds of biopics. The first kind are the ones that almost seem obligatory ? your Gandhi's (1982), your Lincoln's (2012) and the upcoming Darkest Hour (2017); movies about historical giants who did truly incredible things with their lives, incredible things that should be projected (and even embellished) on the silver screen for the world to see. Then there are the ones about the others ? your oddballs, your misfits ? the characters that history books often ignore but are nevertheless important in the way our world is shaped.
Professor Marston is certainly one of the latter folk. Outside of DC comic devotees and the odd discredited crime scene investigator swearing by the validity of the lie detector, William Moulton Marston is not a name people know. But believe me when I say that after watching this movie, you'll want to read up on him and his equally fascinating partners Elizabeth Marston and Olive Byrne. For not only is he the originator of Wonder Woman, the most famous female comic-book hero ever, he's quietly the most fascinating academics to steer the sexual proclivities of modern society since Albert Kinsey.
He, Elizabeth and Olive I should say. The film starts with the three of them bouncing around the psychology department of Tuft University working on research and fine-tuning William's (Evans) latest invention. Olive (Heathcote), the Marston's graduate assistant becomes enamored with the two of them, binding the three in a love triangle that turns into a healthy polyamorous relationship. It being the puritanical state of Massachusetts in the 1920's however, the three couldn't be insulated by the academic bubble for too long before The Marstons are quickly forced out and move to New York City. From there, they hide their double lives with Olive assuming the role of homemaker and "widow" while William and Elizabeth (Hall) find work where they can as "the couple".
As the narrative slowly ebbs towards the inevitable formation of the first Wonder Woman comic-book, the film occasionally diverts from its primary story and uses a red-baiting comic-book committee as connective tissue to William's complicated past. We've seen this kind of framing before. In fact, apart from the decade's long love story involving three people in a committed and loving relationship, we've seen all of this before?which may be the point. Instead of treating the subject matter as salacious or radically divergent, it treats it as another day in dramatic romance-land. Even when the trio develops an interest in the virtually criminalized BDSM subculture, there's a normalcy there that could potentially bore the one couple in the movie theater looking for their unicorn.
What makes Professor Marston ultimately work is director/writer Angela Robinson decision to make the tension largely external. It's never a question of whether all their goings-on will work but if the world will openly allow it. That concern is personified in Rebecca Hall's inner struggle that has the duel burden of her trying to be a smart, capable, 20th century working girl while also being madly in love with two people. One of whom is a woman.
As the brash, irascible Elizabeth, actress Rebecca Hall is an absolute revelation. She bursts onto the screen, all but announces she's smarter than everyone else in the room and easily proves it with her wit and pragmatism. While Heathcote displays the mirage of idyllic feminine beauty, it is Elizabeth's radical feminism that makes the punchy title worth the watch. Seriously though, if Hall doesn't get an Oscar nom by years' end I may have to boycott (#hall&Oscars).
Less successful is Luke Evans who, while certainly displaying the outward charm of a 1920's lad-about-town just has a knack for putting too fine a point on things. Every time we return to Connie Britton and her committee of comic-book hating cronies, Evans lectures like he's explaining particle physics to a freshman undergrad. Perhaps, given Marston's private life, Robinson may have figured the only way out of being questioned by a HUAC analog would be to be so soporific that they'd just move on to Superman or something.
All in all, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women may not be reverential enough to induce comic-book fans to check it out. The film spans decades ultimately treating the creation of Wonder Woman as an afterthought. Yet for those looking for a decently paced, boiler-plate great biopic it may just be the right ticket for you. Additionally because it smuggles in a few liberalizing tidbits about love and modern feminism (Luke Evans's goofy grin notwithstanding), Professor Marston may even be worth a detour to a theater ballsy enough to play it.
Reviewed bymunjalemailVote: 8/10
Powerful script crafted into a beautiful movie that I liked very much. My only grievance is that the Director chose not to portray all three legs of the tripod in the same light and hence the movie comes across as another romantic movie instead of showing how tantalizingly tumultuous polyamorous relationships are. They are so much more than two human beings of any sex being attracted to each other. Two plus one becomes four or five or so much more but certainly not three. One minute of the scene in a similar vein in House of Cards captures that passion more so than I could locate anywhere in this movie. Hall played her role perfectly and seemed natural in a triad. While this was a missed opportunity, I am glad this movie was made and an interesting story was shared and for that I am very thankful to TIFF and the Director.
Details the unconventional life of Dr. William Marston, the Harvard psychologist and inventor who helped invent the modern lie detector test and created Wonder Woman in 1941. Marston was in a polyamorous relationship with his wife Elizabeth, a psychologist and inventor in her own right, and Olive Byrne, a former student who became an academic. This relationship was key to the creation of Wonder Woman, as Elizabeth and Olive's feminist ideals were ingrained in the character from her creation. Marston died of skin cancer in 1947, but Elizabeth and Olive remained a couple and raised their and Marston's children together. The film is said to focus on how Marston dealt with the controversy surrounding Wonder Woman's creation.