UK Release Date: 10th November 2017
Runtime: 108 minutes
Director: Angela Robinson
Writer: Angela Robinson
Starring: Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall, Bella Heathcote, JJ Feild, Oliver Platt
Synopsis: A Harvard professor fascinated with psychology and the workings of the human mind is inspired to create a comic book hero based on his wife and his student mistress, with whom he lives in a polyamorous relationship they keep hidden from those around them.
You almost certainly haven’t seen Professor Marston and the Wonder Women. That’s something of a surprise given the story it tells, which deals with the creation of the comic book hero who took centre stage in one of the best received superhero movies in years. However, this is a film that has proven to be something of a tough sell for its marketing team, combining comic book origin tale, historical drama and a moral discussion around polyamory and sadomasochism. It’s tough to get all that on a poster or in a trailer you can show before a Thor movie.
The lack of marketing, though, does a disservice to a film that weaves an interesting story with the help of three very impressive central performances. In classic film-based-on-reality style, Professor Marston has proved controversial with the real people behind its story, but it excels as a dramatic film even if the reality side of the story is stripped away. It’s a fascinating tale of a man whose obsession and intrigue drove him to almost accidentally create an indelible figure in popular culture.
Luke Evans is the eponymous psychologist, who is teaching in Massachusetts with his wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall), when he meets attractive student Olive (Bella Heathcote). With the uneasy blessing of his wife, Marston takes on Olive as an assistant and all three of them work together on a lie detector machine. Romance blossoms between all three of them and they begin a complex relationship, which they have to continue in secret, while a sadomasochistic edge to it all inspires Marston to create a superhero.
Professor Marston is a fascinating story, which is conveyed very nicely through the performances. Rebecca Hall, in particular, is brilliant as Elizabeth, who is conflicted between her desire to see her husband’s work succeed and her divided thoughts surrounding his obviously sexual fascination with Olive. Heathcote is great as the naive young woman caught like a rabbit in the blinding headlights of the charismatic couple with whom she falls in love and Evans himself makes a real impact, with a smattering of the arrogance that made him so compelling as Gaston in Beauty and the Beast.
This is destined to go down as a rather odd, underseen curio. It deserves to find an audience on DVD and it has a really pleasing, non-judgmental attitude to bondage, polyamory and the kind of relationships that feel modern now, let alone in the rather less tolerant interwar years. Angela Robinson‘s movie is quietly compelling and consistently interesting, even if it struggles a little in communicating exactly why its events are so significant in relation to the character we see Gal Gadot playing today. There’s not an electric cello in sight.
Pop or Poop?
Despite its intrigue, fascination and timely subject matter, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is set to quietly disappear from multiplexes as a victim of its own marketing. Whatever the shortcomings of its studio backers, though, the film is an interesting and inventive take on a little-reported corner of superhero history, aided by a trio of excellent and complex performances.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.