Friday, October 20, 2017

Movie Review: "Professor Marston and the Wonder Women" (2017)

Director: Angela Robinson
Year: 2017
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 48 minutes

Doctor of psychology William Marston uses his polyamorous lifestyle and the two women in it as the inspiration for his comic book Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman is a huge phenomenon right now, probably more popular than she has ever been thanks to Patty Jenkins, Warner Bros., and the DC extended universe. Have you ever wondered about the story behind this iconic superhero? Have you ever wondered about the person who came up with the story and invented the most well known and most popular female superhero of all time? This is the tale writer/director Angela Robinson tells in "Professor Marston and the Wonder Women." The film features Luke Evans as the titular Professor William Marston. He stars alongside Rebecca Hall, who plays his wife Elizabeth, and Bella Heathcote, who plays their lover Olive Byrne. Marston worked as a professor developing his DISC theory. He was also trying to invent the lie detector. It was there he and his wife met a student named Olive. The professor and his wife Elizabeth take Olive on as an assistant to help with their research. A short time later, the three enter into a polyamorous relationship. Many years into their relationship, William uses the two women he loves as the inspiration for his most memorable creation: Wonder Woman.

"Professor Marston and the Wonder Women" deals with issues like feminism, women's rights, polyamory, sexual freedom, and bisexuality in the 20's, 30's, and 40's. Surprisingly, many of these issues still play a huge role in modern society and are often still seen as risque or taboo though some are becoming a little more accepted. This movie has some extremely good performances, especially from Rebecca Hall, who we feel never quite gets the recognition she deserves. Hall is constantly giving brilliant performances over and over, and between 2016's "Christine" and her tremendous display here, we really hope she starts to gain more attention for her wonderful work as an actor. Her character Elizabeth is strong, stubborn, and confident at times, but with an underlying insecurity. Bella Heathcote also offers a great performance as Olive, who has a more innocent naivete, but is still curious and exploratory as she overcomes the societal sexual oppression she has been raised to abide by all her life. Luke Evans is also good, though he is overshadowed by his two female counterparts. The movie starts out as an exploration of Marston and Elizabeth's marriage and work, as well as Elizabeth's fight to be recognized free from the shadow of her much more scholarly recognized husband. The movie then morphs into a romantic drama as they add Olive into the equation and begin to fight for the love they want and believe in despite the notions of the time. Finally, the creation of Wonder Woman comes into play in the latter half of the movie as the couple explores the world of role-playing, bondage, and secret identities.

There is an interesting and engaging story here, though we are sure many liberties have been taken with some of the aspects of their lives. This is to be expected in most biopics. The photos of the real Professor Marston, Elizabeth, and Olive show as the credits roll, and they don't look a thing like their much sexier Hollywood counterparts, but it seems clear Robinson wanted to make this film have a little bit of a steamy romance to it to have mass appeal, so we understand. Our one major complaint about this movie is the pacing. It can be a bit slow at times, causing the film to drag here and there. It can get a little melodramatic, but the subject matter necessitates it at times.

We wound up really enjoying "Professor Marston and the Wonder Women," though it's really no wonder why this movie didn't make any money at the box office. The exploration of sexuality, particularly female sexuality, coupled with its themes of feminism, polyamory, and women's rights have been gaining more acceptance in our modern society, but are still considered taboo subjects to a lot of people. It's a shame more people don't open their closed minds and accept that times are changing.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: ~6.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~88%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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