Directed by Angela Robinson
Reviewed by Brandon Bishop
“I think you long for an unconventional life.”
If one were to take a look at the first appearances and later the cover of the first issue of Wonder Woman, the author is printed as Charles Moulton. In truth, Charles Moulton is the pen name of William Moulton Marston, played here by Luke Evans, a psychology professor and inventor. Professor Marston and the Wonder Women chronicles Marston’s complex private life with the two women who inspired Diana of Themyscira, his wife Elizabeth, played by Rebecca Hall, and their young lover, Olive, played by Bella Heathcote. At the time that Wonder Woman debuted in 1941, women in comics were relegated to love interests and damsels in distress. Marston set out to break this depiction of women in the pages of his comic, inspired by the powerful women in his own life.
While truths about specifics in biographical works often get exaggerated, the Marstons and Olive live a life that their peers do not understand or accept. Marston turns this frustration on its head by creating Wonder Woman. Whether or not one agrees with Marston’s polyamorous lifestyle, he footed himself as a silent pillar of feminine advocacy. His comics undeniably offended some, but inspired many.
The comics, while widely popular, received criticisms due to their depictions of bondage and violence involving a female lead character, both dealing and receiving. Professor Marston and the Wonder Women dares to frankly share with us the complex, polyamorous relationship of William, Elizabeth, and Olive. Each of them gives an earnest and passionate performance, particularly Rebecca Hall. Elizabeth is brilliant and passionate but conflicted. Bella Heathcote plays Elizabeth’s foil, Olive, as curious and submissive. Neither of them really know what to make of the other, and that’s what draws them together. Luke Evans probably delivers one of his best performances yet. He’s been a regular in light, fun, franchise fare such as The Hobbit and The Fast and the Furious, but he puts true skill on display here. Still, Rebecca Hall ultimately outshines the others and steals the show.
The production design is spot on, but subdued. The film confidently places itself in the late 1930’s and onward, but doesn’t spend much time showing that off. The setting matters because it creates the conflict that drives our leads. They want to love each other, and the world doesn’t want to let them. The surroundings don’t distract, keeping the focus on our main trio. The design holds back with deceptive simplicity until the moment that matters, and even during that powerful reveal, remains deliberately subdued.
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women illustrates a passionate and effective romance between three individuals that becomes much more. Perhaps the reason that the movie works so well arises from its unconventional subject matter. Angela Robinson has made a moving, feminist film that does not shy away from the sensitive and controversial. The result is a movie that is as relevant as it is emotional.