Quick and Dirty: Professor Marston and The Wonder Women does exactly what you’d hope a biopic about the creator of Wonder Woman would: explore the heart and soul of the man who introduced this iconic character to the world and more importantly recognizes the women to whom he dedicated his life.
This is a fascinating story that pulls back the curtain on three extraordinary people by sharing their tale and history with frankness, love, and grace.
Robinson handles the unparalleled uniqueness of Wonder Woman’s themes and purpose with such masterful skill it only makes the intense polyamorous relationship at the heart and soul of her origins even more incredible. It’s an absolute must-see.
The Details: I wasn’t exactly surprised when I first read that Wonder Woman owed her origins to an unconventional person. Let’s face it, as female heroines go, Wonder Woman and her alter-ego Diana Prince are far from standard superhero fare.
What did surprise me was the announcement that the biopic would not revolve solely around Dr. William Moulton Marston. Choosing instead, to tell the story of the two women central to his happiness – and the complex emotional dynamic between the three – was a bold but necessary decision if this was to be an honest portrayal instead of a vague and aimless story that danced around of what is actually essential to understanding the real story about the man behind Wonder Woman.
Professor Marston and The Wonder Women is a visually captivating period piece built around the true story of William and Elizabeth Marston and Olive Byrne. Their story begins on the campus of Radcliff College in the mid-1940s. The fresh setting and beautiful costuming immediately immerse you in the world of where these three individuals live and work. Robinson weaves their story through Marston’s lectures on DISC theory so smoothly that you not only become enraptured with the characters as their personalities develop but with the power dynamic driving the pace and undertones of the film as well.
Rebecca Hall and Bella Heathcote star as women who are opposites sides of a coin and Hall and Heathcote bring them roaring to life with intelligence, tempestuousness, and sensual flair. By the end, what each contributes to Wonder Woman seems so fundamental as to be obvious. Luke Evans, playing the man between them, offers a grounded, humble, alluring performance that showcases this man and his contributions to the world brilliantly.
All three build such a solid unit that trying to focus on one person more than the other is to tragically miss indispensable elements of this story and their lives.
Marston and his brilliant wife Elizabeth are a matched set; strong-willed, driven, witty, and obviously enamored and comfortable with each other. They encourage and support each other in a way that’s unprecedented. Elizabeth is in no way a shrinking violet and her husband seemingly adores her ever brash, hard-charging tendency. Watching this relationship expand and evolve as the pair meets and grows closer to seemingly timid student Olive Bryne is more than enough to hook you.
But, Robinson never forgets to expose the large world around this emerging triad and the ramifications of their every choice and societal shift throughout the years. Watching this all play out on screen makes for a dazzling story. There’s nothing lewd or titillating about how this relationship plays out on screen and these scenes and associated dialogue are sexy as hell because of it.
Having Marston questioned in front of the Child Study Association of America, by an obviously straightlaced Josette Frank (Connie Britton) favorably aids the score and Cinematographer Bryce Fortner’s gorgeous use of light and shadow in breathing three-dimensions into every single frame. Using this semi-fluid narrative format provides a basis to relay the concepts and themes driving the Wonder Woman comics and the evolution of Marston’s theories that led to her creation in a fashion that’s easy to follow – despite moving backward and forwards in time – and historically interesting without dragging down the personal aspects of the story arc.
Even though Marston takes center stage as the storyteller, it’s quickly obvious that he voluntarily lives in a world crafted and run on a more feminine power. That his female counterparts are his equal – and his opinion, his betters – is such a given threaded throughout the story’s premise that it was refreshing to watch a film where the character development didn’t feel manipulated to keep the male firmly at the center.
Professor Marston and The Wonder Women is a compelling exploration of dominance, submission, love, friendship, femininity, power, emotional honesty and what all of those concepts mean in a world with no interest in embracing the unconventional.
This biopic is an amazingly well-crafted tribute to three beautifully complicated people their contributions to science, pop culture and their courageous decision to live beyond what’s “supposed” to be. It’s a wonderful and timely reminder that who you share your journey with is entirely within your control.
It’s funny, informative, sexy, charismatic, enjoyable film well worth the price of a ticket.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5
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