Friday, October 27, 2017

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women review

Did you know that the creator of the comic book Wonder Woman was a feminist man? Or that he had a sexual relationship with two women? How about the fact that he also created the first lie detector machine? Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is the fascinating film about this man Professor William Marston and his two loves, Elizabeth Marston and Olive Byrne.

We meet Professor William Moulton Marston (The Hobbit's Luke Evans) about the year 1946  as he is being interrogated by Josette Frank (Connie Britton) of the Child Study Association for his controversial creation, Wonder Woman. She's upset with the comic book's sexual and bondage themes. Marston defends his work. This interrogation becomes a framing device similar to Cervantes defending his story in Man of La Mancha. The movie flashes back to a time where Marston is teaching psychology and his DISC theory regarding human behavior. (DISC stands for Dominance, Inducement, Submission, Compliance) Watching his class is his wife, Elizabeth. (Rebecca Hall) Also  attending is a student, Olive Byrne. (Bella Heathcote)

Marston finds himself enraptured with Byrne. He wants her as a research assistant. Elizabeth immediately sees the sexual attraction that Marston has for her but agrees to allowing Byrne work for him. Their initial work is the development of the lie detector. During the testing of the device all three discover that they have feelings for each other. This leads to a polymorphous relationship.

After losing his job, and with Byrne having given birth to a child, Marston finds   the need to support this growing family,   But first, he's got to stop by a local lingerie store which is also a front for a bondage group.  Well , maybe he doesn't need to shop for lingerie and um... ropes but it turns him on.  This leads him to introduce his wife and lover, Olive to some light bondage.  Add that with  his feminist views,  the feminist inspiration from the women in his life and voila, Wonder Woman.  He takes the idea to DC Comics and they agree to produce a comic.  So, you know where the Lasso of Truth comes from.  Don't tell the kids.

The performances of Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall and Bella Heathcote are superb.   They all have chemistry with each other, sexual and emotional.  Evan's Marston is an idealist.  He wants to use the comic book of Wonder Woman to indoctrinate the youth of America to feminism.  His passion for feminism is matched by his love for his women.  Hall's Elizabeth is a woman who's been educated as a lawyer by must endure sexual discrimination.  She's tough but there's also pain in her performance.  Heathcote's Olive has a lineage to feminism and liberal ideas.  In real life, Olive Byrne was the niece of feminist Margaret Sanger.  Bella Heathcote shows a devotion to those ideas.  But more importantly, she exudes a telepathic performance.  It may seem that Olive is the submissive of the three but she radiates a sexual aura which dominates Elizabeth and Marston.

Writer and director Angela Robinson has created a film that may accurately depict the three and if  it doesn't I applaud the ideas of the movie.   Granddaughter Christie Marston  argues that Elizabeth and Olive were not in a sexual relationship but were more like sisters.  (Hollywood Reporter)   The relationship of the three was certainly radical for the time and it would be frowned upon now.   But this unconventional family is actually conventional in its goals.  If Wonder Woman was going to defeat evil by love (Boston University article) then why can't love exist in a family of two women, a man and children?  Why can't that love defeat fear and bigotry?   Robinson's scenes of the Marston family with evening dinners and playing with children are loving, happy and beautiful.  You root for this family.

As for the sex between the three, Robinson projects some of her ideas.  First, she physically depicts the lovemaking with hand-held camera shots.  There's a slight shake to the picture.  This depicts the emotional, nervous and sexual energy between the three.  But what about the bondage?   Isn't it the objectification of women that radical feminists decry about?  No.  It's consensual.   Robinson seems to show that it is the women who are in charge here.  It's a sexual power that motivates men and women.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is a warm, loving and yes, family movie that just happens to have a polymorphous relationship with some bondage thrown in.   Radical feminists, feminists, comic book fans and movie lovers should see this film.  The grade is A.     

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