A smart, challenging and emotionally complicated love story.
It took over 75 years for Wonder Woman to make it all the way to the big screen, and then, just a few months later, her creators followed. But writer/director Angela Robinson’s Professor Marston and The Wonder Women isn’t a typical love letter to a pop culture icon. It’s a frank and sensual love story about three people who tried to change the world, and succeeded… just not in the way they originally intended.
Luke Evans and Rebecca Hall play Professor William Moulton Marston and Elizabeth Marston, two psychologists who are trying to invent the first lie detector test when they enlist a student, Olive Byrne, played by Bella Heathcote, to be their new assistant. They are all modern feminists, honest with their emotions and open to all possibilities, who challenge each other at every turn. But when William, Elizabeth and Olive all turn out to be equally attracted to one another, it gets a little complicated.
That’s because it’s one thing to be forward thinking and it’s yet another thing to rewrite decades of your own psychological programming. And then it’s yet another thing to overcome your personal hangups and still have to deal with the oppressive social structures upon which early 20th century society is built (and, if we’re being honest, much of 21st century society as well).
An extended relationship between a man and two bisexual women is difficult to navigate, and even more difficult to explain to people at a time when homosexuality was still classified as a mental illness.
Angela Robinson teases the creation of Wonder Woman throughout Professor Marston and the Wonder Women – sometimes awkwardly – but her film doesn’t play like she’s the inevitable conclusion. Wonder Woman is the hook, and once you’re hooked in you realize that this story is a rich, expressive and intelligent character study about three people who constantly wrestle between their emotions and their intellects, as they gradually explore their complicated sexuality in an era where anything other than heterosexual missionary position between married partners seemed taboo.
Professor Marston and the Wonder Women takes William, Elizabeth and Olive through their voyeurism, role playing, open relationships and bondage, and draws distinct parallels between those formative life experiences and Wonder Woman herself, whose feminism stems from very particular ideas about sexual and social liberation.
Robinson presents these moments as erotic but also confusing and challenging. Her characters aren’t always aware of their desires, and they aren’t always honest with themselves.
Fortunately, the best moments in Professor Marston & The Wonder Women consists of William, Elizabeth and Olive figuring these things out. The three leads are intelligent and emotional performers, working with an intelligent and emotional screenplay. They complement each other, the characters and the actors alike, and they each give sensational performances.