Sex­i­est ori­gin of an ori­gin story

Edmonton Sun - - SHOWBIZ - Ann HOrnAdAy The Wash­ing­ton Post — The Wash­ing­ton Post 1 hour, 41 mins. 1 hour, 48 mins. — AP 1 hour, 43 mins.

As the movie we need right now, Pro­fes­sor Marston & the Won­der Women could not be bet­ter timed. News re­ports might be awash in abuses of author­ity and griev­ous mis­con­duct within the movie in­dus­try, but here’s a story that not only cel­e­brates fe­male power and open­minded ide­al­ism, but em­bod­ies those val­ues in its very warp and woof.

As its ti­tle sug­gests, the fact-based film tells the story of Wil­liam Moul­ton Marston (Luke Evans), the psy­chol­o­gist and in­ven­tor who, un­der the pen name Charles Moul­ton, cre­ated the comic book hero­ine Won­der Wo­man. The char­ac­ter’s ori­gin story was adapted by Patty Jenk­ins into a rous­ing ac­tion­ad­ven­ture this past sum­mer.

Here, writer-di­rec­tor An­gela Robin­son delves into the real-life in­spi­ra­tions be­hind Marston’s cre­ation, which in­cluded: pro­gres­sive pol­i­tics; the psy­cho­log­i­cal the­o­ries of Freud and Jung; a long-term ro­man­tic and do­mes­tic re­la­tion­ship between Marston, his psy­chol­o­gist wife El­iz­a­beth (Re­becca Hall) and their stu­dent Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote); and the trio’s dis­cov­ery and en­joy­ment of the world of fetish ob­jects and role-play­ing.

If that all sounds ter­ri­bly edgy — maybe even a lit­tle dark — rest as­sured: Robin­son gives Pro­fes­sor Marston the classy, high-gloss sheen of a rich pe­riod piece, in­tro­duc­ing Wil­liam and El­iz­a­beth as they pur­sue their re­search at Har­vard, and fol­low­ing them through the 1940s, when Marston in­tro­duced his fem­i­nist archetype, kit­ted out with a form-fit­ting corset, lasso, metal wrist cuffs and di­a­dem.

As the movie makes clear, th­ese sar­to­rial de­tails didn’t emerge from a leer­ing sense of kink or voyeurism. Rather, Marston was de­ter­mined to give boys a pos­i­tive role model of a fe­male hero they could re­spect and look up to. The at­trac­tion to ac­cou­trements of bondage and sub­mis­sion had its roots in his and El­iz­a­beth’s re­search, which in­cluded hu­man be­hav­iour, dis­sem­bling and ul­ti­mately in­vent­ing an early lie-de­tect­ing ma­chine.

The theme of hon­esty — liv­ing ac­cord­ing to one’s prin­ci­ples, em­brac­ing some­times taboo sex­ual de­sires, pur­su­ing love and friend­ship in good faith — per­vades Pro­fes­sor Marston, which is con­sis­tently ab­sorb­ing, sen­su­ous and lovely to look at, but most in­ter­est­ing when it fo­cuses on Olive and El­iz­a­beth.

Hall de­liv­ers a prickly, tour-de-force per­for­mance as the bril­liant, dis­arm­ingly frank El­iz­a­beth, who de­spite her su­pe­rior in­tel­li­gence is rel­e­gated to sec­ond banana in her hus­band’s aca­demic ca­reer. In one of the film’s finest, most ju­di­ciously cal­i­brated scenes, she and Olive em­bark on a ten­ta­tive se­duc­tion, even­tu­ally invit­ing Wil­liam to join them with a sim­ple out­stretched hand and di­rect, know­ing look.

It’s a mo­ment, like so many in Pro­fes­sor Marston, that could eas­ily have been played for max­i­mum tit­il­la­tion or pruri­ent ap­peal. In­stead, Robin­son in­vests it with emo­tion, ma­tu­rity and, per­haps sur­pris­ingly, a tone of whole­some re­as­sur­ance.

Oddly enough, Marston him­self isn’t nearly as vividly drawn as his fe­male com­pan­ions and col­lab­o­ra­tors. Here, he comes across as lit­tle more than a well-mean­ing but rel­a­tively in­sipid man who had the good sense to sur­round him­self with far more in­ter­est­ing women. Still, he’s a sym­pa­thetic fig­ure in an en­gross­ing and beau­ti­fully told glimpse at the not-so-re­cent past that feels vi­tal, ground­break­ing and for­ward-lean­ing. My liT­Tle Pony an early press screen­ing on a Satur­day morn­ing? We’re go­ing to take a hard pass on that. Not re­viewed.

as a life­time Fed­eral bu­reau of in­ves­ti­ga­tion agent and No. 2 to J. edgar Hoover, Mark Felt was not ex­actly an or­di­nary man, but he was, it seems, a highly un­likely can­di­date to top­ple a pres­i­dency. Felt was the man be­hind deep throat, the Water­gate whistle­blower who led bob Wood­ward and carl bern­stein to the ex­plo­sive truth be­hind that break-in. He lived only as a shad­owy mys­tery in the pop­u­lar imag­i­na­tion un­til he gave up his long-held se­cret in 2005, a few years be­fore he died. by then what he rep­re­sented had al­ready tran­scended any­thing an ac­tual hu­man could live up to.

it’s not a sur­prise then that the fic­tion­al­ized telling of his story in is a lit­tle un­der­whelm­ing. the mun­dan­i­ties of the truth could hardly be as sexy as decades of in­trigue and mythol­ogy en­shrined in his­tory and the en­dur­ing great­ness of All the Pres­i­dent’s Men. but di­rec­tor Peter Lan­des­man (Con­cus­sion) and star Liam Nee­son nonethe­less man­age to weave to­gether a fairly com­pelling (if dis­puted) tick­tock of how it all went down from Felt’s purview. Mark Felt opens in select cities to­day. it ex­pands through­out the fall across canada.

Re­becca Hall (left), Luke Evans and Bella Heathcote share a polyamorous re­la­tion­ship in Pro­fes­sor Marston.

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