Living an Unconventional Life: Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
Professor Marston And The Wonder Women takes a look at the relationship between three people and the inspiration for a famous comic book. In 1928, Professor William Marston (Luke Evans) taught psychology at Tufts University in Rhode Island. His wife, Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall), served as his teacher's aide. When class was not in session, they worked on developing a working lie detector. When they asked for a student aide, the only one who applied was Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcoate), whose mother and aunt were active in getting women more rights. When lie detector results provide false positives, Bella suggested the usage of blood pressure cuffs, as well as asking meaningful questions. The meaningful question came regarding William's attraction to Olive. The result shows deceit, but Elizabeth does not mind the feelings. Olive also feels the attraction, and soon ends her engagement to Brant Gregory (Chris Conroy). When they show affection openly on campus, all three are asked to leave.
They move to New York, and explain to the neighbors that Olive is Elizabeth's widowed sister. They start a family, Elizabeth becomes a secretary, and Olive becomes a teacher. While William gets his scholarly works published with little success, he starts to take his abilities to other printed media. After William visits a costume shop owned by Charles Guyette (JJ Feild) that caters to wide-ranging tastes, he starts to develop a comic book character which is, in part, based on William's experiences. He sells the concept of Wonder Woman to publisher M. C. Gaines (Oliver Platt). Wonder Woman's powers and immodest costume, though popular with readers, draw powerful critics. Marston is called to answer to allegations of moral corruption from Josette Frank (Connie Britton), who heads a committee investigating such matters.
Professor Marston And The Wonder Women is definitely not a film for the youngest fans of the film starring Gal Godot. It is, however, an interesting film about a relationship that would still be considered unusual today. It also takes a good look at the process of invention, whether it's creating an effective lie detector or creating a comic book character. Writer-director Angela Robinson shows the circumstances that made the Marstons and Olive grow attracted to one another. Both William and Elizabeth found a level of success when Olive arrived that they didn't before their meeting. That partnership also gave Olive a sense of achievement. However, she misses other details she should not have. For one thing, the characters never show age, though the movie takes these three through nearly twenty years of their lives. The only obvious change is the length of Elizabeth's hair, which grows longer over time. Also, very little is said or shown about their children, all of whom had William Marston as their father. The pace also grows slow at times, but the eventual discoveries these three make lead to audience reward.
The chemistry between the three lead actors is unmistakable. Evans, as William, is fascinated with the human mind, including his own. Though happily married to Elizabeth, he can't hide his attraction to Olive from their lie detector. His mind goes beyond the reality as he applies his life and his psychology principles with his women to create Wonder Woman. Hall is the devoted, but practical, Elizabeth, a learned woman denied a professorship simply because of gender. She stays connected to academia for as long as she can. When she starts to grow fond of Olive, she shows a permissiveness that most women wouldn't dream of having. Heathcoate shows herself to be adept as both a student and a teacher to the Marstons. The direction in her life changed once she became more than just their assistant. Olive willingly accepts most aspects of her polyamorous arrangement as she learns about herself. Platt and Britton also do well in their small support roles.
In this era of superhero movies, viewers are being introduced or re-introduced to the Amazonian known as Wonder Woman. Professor Marston And The Wonder Women is no origin story in the vein of the X-Men Origins films or the Gotham TV series. This based-on-fact film is about the people who created and inspired the most popular female superhero in comics history. It's a slightly atypical story about a trio who became partners in invention and in life. While the story may lack certain pertinent details, viewers might never look at Wonder Woman in the same way again.
On a scale of zero to four stars, I give Professor Marston And The Wonder Women three stars. Getting to the truth behind a popular superhero.