Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

October 3, 2017

"Professor Marston and the Wonder Women" indeed seems impressive, as polyamory communities organize for when it hits theaters

It looks like we will not be disappointed by the first true poly-romance movie ever to reach mainstream cinemas. More reviews are coming in — nearly all positive, some of them raves.

Local polyactivists are organizing group viewings and in some cases press availabilities in their areas. Including at select advance screenings before opening night (October 13 in the US). See the end of this post for more.

But first,

● At CBR.com, Professor Marston and The Wonder Women (Sept. 28, 2017):

By Kristy Puchko

I struggle to remember where I first heard the story behind the creation of Wonder Woman. I do recall it being told to me in hushed tones, as if the character’s origin was full of shameful secrets... and thereby [called] into question feminists’ embrace of the lasso-swinging Amazon. But in writer/director Angela Robinson’s brilliant biopic Professor Marston and The Wonder Women, the incredible and true story of a three-way romance that birthed one of the world’s most iconic superheroes is told with warmth, humor and a sex-positive attitude that smirks at such narrow-minded assertions. Simply put: Professor Marston and The Wonder Women is fierce, feminist and fantastic.

...On its surface, [it] feels like a traditional biopic. The film is shot in a warm color palette that’s gorgeous and glowing. The costumes are delicate and era-appropriate. A framing device allows flashbacks so decades can be easily jumped about, sticking only to the most formative moments. There’ are poignant close-ups of beautiful actors, and rousing speeches about love, life and society, with one turn in particular seemingly poised for Oscar attention. But just beneath the surface is something more subversive, modern and delectably nerdy.

...“Sexy biopic” seems an oxymoron for a subgenre so notoriously staid, but Robinson manages this sensational feat with the help of an extraordinary cast. Too often romantic leads are beautiful, but have no spark. Here, Evans, Hall and Heathcote share an intoxicating chemistry that loads every scene with verve and allure.

...I love this movie. More than that, I’m in awe of it. By nestling a story of unconventional true love in the cozy and familiar package of a prestige biopic, Robinson welcomes audiences into the Marston family’s story with a graceful gravitas. She unfurls fleshed out and flawed characters with compassion and passion. She makes no excuses for their sex lives, because none are needed. She gives us a love story that’s smoking hot with sex appeal, and bursting with emotion. Best of all, she gives us a proudly queer romance that’s an absolute crowd pleaser, and easily one of the best films of the year.

● Here's a newly released clip from the movie: "Women Should Create Their Own Destiny" (0:39):

MovieWeb: A Different Kind of Superhero Movie (Sept. 27):

By Ryan Scott

...Timing is helpful, but making a good movie is much more important and there's no question that has been accomplished here as well.

...Don't expect to see some fluffy story about a down on his luck writer who somehow manages to create the most influential female comic book character ever. This is a story of a very complicated, progressive relationship between three people that is sexual, funny, charming, poignant and truly daring in many ways.

...There are things that viewers will see in this movie that challenge convention and, truthfully, may upset some. Especially some of those who hold more traditional values that also love Wonder Woman. That said, this is also a very important story for the times we live in. Having a female director tell this particular story, which involves a husband and wife who invite a young woman into their relationship long term, a legitimate love triangle, truly gives this movie a voice that it needs.

As with any biopic, it rides or dies with the performances. ... If any of these [three] core performances didn't work, the movie would fall apart. The movie does not fall apart at any phase.

... At the end of the day, this is a very compelling story that was adapted beautifully for the big screen. It may shock some, but the way in which the story naturally challenges social norms and ideas is the real heart and soul of this movie. Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is, to put it simply, wonderful.

● A Consequences of Sound reviewer: "Effective, if overly polite" (Sept. 16):

In 1945, at a time when irate citizens are collecting and burning the Wonder Woman issues in their communities, the man behind the comics, Dr. William Marston (Luke Evans), is forced to defend his creation to a committee concerned with the morality of American youth. ...

As Professor Marston begins to explain the genesis of the character and mount a passionate defense of her importance, Professor Marston flashes back to 1928 at Radcliffe... [when he and his wife Elizabeth] embark on a professionally and personally rewarding relationship that will redefine themselves and the comic industry ... the true-life origin story of how a kinky, loving and lifelong relationship between William, Elizabeth, and Olive inspired the most popular female superhero of all time.

...Professor Marston is as traditional in structure as it is divergent in content. And, arguably, that is in itself subversive. Angela Robinson, who wrote and directed the film, has managed to take what could have been a tawdry or salacious look into Wonder Woman’s naughty roots and give her real-life characters — and their genuine love for each other — the same amount of respect that any vanilla, monogamous heterosexual historical figure would receive. When portraying their professional lives, Robinson keeps the focus on their collective genius and the work they produce. In their personal lives, the threesome’s developing love is received and portrayed earnestly, with no winking asides, leering exploitation, or even any undue dwelling on the price that the three of them pay for building a family together.


...The level of love and respect that William, Elizabeth, and Olive have for each other is still rare to see on film. They are intellectual equals and even partners in their shared lives — and, when they’re not, it’s an actual issue up for discussion. This dynamic also comes across in the sex scenes; there is maybe no better and sadder testament to the current state of the Hollywood love scene than the sheer relief with which many critics have already praised Marston’s threesomes for their obvious concern for female pleasure and agency. It’s also refreshing how the creative process is portrayed here, not as a sudden strike of genius, or a response to outside influences, but as the evolution of ideas and ideals through which William explores the world with his partners.

While the ideas of Professor Marston and the Wonder Women are inspired, though, the execution of it is somewhat less so. The film is well-made and well-performed ... but the narrative structure often runs like clockwork to the point of tedium. Montages of what should be truly interesting material, such as the two academics and their assistant developing and testing the lie detector, proceed at a paint-by-numbers pace. The musical cues are hokey, and the soundtrack could easily double as a generic greatest-hits collection of the jazz era. The film’s efforts to juxtapose 1945 paeans to Wonder Woman and the strong and brilliant womanhood of her character with moments that illustrate similar qualities in the women in his life are rousing enough, but also heavy-handed.

...It’s a film with a good thesis and great representation for the sort of ideas and people who are often relegated to the shadows of polite society. But somewhere, lurking in all of this awards-worthy respectability, is a story that could be every bit as revolutionary and stimulating (both intellectually and sexually) as Wonder Woman was when she first premiered. It would be wonderful to see that version onscreen, someday.

Rating: B-

AV Club: Female directors bring kinky Wonder Women and bloody Revenge to Fantastic Fest (Sept. 27):

By Katie Rife

...As a member of the LGBTQ community, Robinson says she made a conscious choice to film the movie in a conventional Hollywood style, rich with period details (fans of ‘30s and ‘40s vintage fashion are in for a treat) but shot and scored with a generic, glossy “awards movie” sheen. According to Robinson, her intent was to normalize a polyamorous BDSM relationship by treating it just like any other period romance. And indeed, the film is one of the most kink-and poly-positive movies I’ve ever seen, period, let alone one distributed by a major indie like Annapurna. The problem is, Robinson won’t be there to explain her choice to audiences who see the film at their local multiplex.

Vanyaland: Fantastic Fest Review: Rebecca Hall steals the delightful ‘Professor Marston and the Wonder Women’ (Oct. 2):

By Nick Johnston

...Yes, the Hot Wonder Woman Creator Who Fucks movie is solid, and you should see it at your earliest convenience.

...The triumvirate at the film’s core are uniformly well-cast, though it’s not without some Hollywood revisionism (let’s be frank, it’d probably be Tom Wilkinson playing Marston as he’s shown in the credits, not the trim and fit Evans as the film would have you believe), but it’s Hall who is the standout here. She’s brilliantly magnetic and sardonic, with a dry wit and the intelligence to perpetually match it, and her cycle of shame about the relationship between the three of them serves to give the film a decent structure, and her character’s arc sustains the runtime.

...Her portrayal of Elizabeth Marston owes as much to Hepburn and Harlow as it does the actual person she’s seeing to portray here, and Evans, wisely, plays it straight, as he goes for the kind of Cary Grant stability that works so well in this time period. ... It’s a blissful screwball comedy that’s a bit derailed by the nature of the biopic beast....

Professor Marston works best when it’s not concerned with the iconography of the star-spangled Amazon.... Outside of the framing device used to throw the whole film in motion, her creation could easily take a backseat.... Yet that might actually be a sign of the film’s success: I gave a shit about the characters outside of the context of what they had done with their lives, which is something that biopics traditionally fail at.... I wanted their romance to succeed, and for them to live happily in defiance of the system, and the Wonder Woman moments were, honestly, an intrusion upon that love story.

Plenty of criticism has already been hurled at Robinson and her cohorts for making this traditionally, with the standards and tropes of your average romantic biopic, but the director insists (and I agree) that it’s part of the point: That telling this story in the most conventional of ways establishes it as a love as relatable as any other. And on that level, Professor Marston succeeds wildly, with its deeply affable characters and loving story rhythms, even if it’s central conceit (and greatest reason for existing) doesn’t totally gel together. Even with all of that, it may very well be the best Wonder Woman-related film of the year.

● An interview with Bella Heathcote, who plays Olive, at FilmInk in her native country Australia (where the movie will be released on November 9th): Polyamory, Suffragettes and Wonder Women (Sept. 22):

By Chris Daniel and Gill Pringle

...“We just need to be more accepting of love and about what love is. If you look at the origins of Wonder Woman, she is a strong female character, not a sex icon,” says Bella Heathcote doing press duties for her latest role.

"...Her portrayal in the script is actually a lot different to the real-life counterpart. After a time, I came to the conclusion that I was just playing a fictional character, because the conditions were the same. I was reading the Jill Lepore book [The Secret History of Wonder Woman] and [Olive] was a lot more comfortable with her mother and her aunt’s background, and was actually getting the pill for students at the University. She was really sporty, quite masculine, went through a stage where she dressed like a boy. I guess at that age she was more comfortable than how she was portrayed in this film.

"...I think [director] Angela wanted Olive and Elizabeth to feel very different. ... There’s something about her, she’s completely open and completely vulnerable, and there is a sort of bravery within that, just to be able to own your feelings. ... It’s a great role, because we watch Olive grow up during the film. We start out with her being really unsure about herself and then she grows into a really confident woman who fights for what she wants. It’s difficult to find a character arc like that. The relationship between the three characters is really interesting and fun to explore."

Did you three do any chemistry testing before the film?

No, we didn’t actually, we just did a rehearsal. It was amazing how quickly we went into the dynamic of the roles, and I felt immediately at ease with both of them. ...

Polyamorous relationships like this in the modern day aren’t very common, so back then it was even more shocking.

There was actually someone working on the crew that was in a polyamorous relationship so we were pushing them for information. ... Olive’s connection within the relationship, in my mind, is more drawn towards Elizabeth. I feel that somehow they managed to negotiate it so that the romantic alliances worked. I’m really fascinated by the idea, because I always thought someone would feel left out. This relationship worked for them.

Can you talk more about the relationship?

I think the relationship is like a tripod. ... Olive’s role in the relationship is to be the homemaker, raising the children whilst the other two work, but she’s also trying to keep Marston and Elizabeth interested. There’s definitely the sexual aspect of the relationship, but I think they all compliment each other with their intellect and dispositions.

With a film dealing with such strong female characters, how do you see it being directed by a woman?

I can’t imagine this film being directed by anyone other than Angela. She is a strong female, so she was a great figure to have on set. She knows these women, and they are really important to her. She... directed sex scenes that made them feel normal. When I watch a sex scene in a film, [I] can see two actors clamping their jaw and just trying to get through it, [then] the sex scene ends and their characters pick up again. ...

● In the UT Daily Texan: Groundbreaking look at Wonder Woman’s creator (Sept. 27):

By Justin Jones

...Handled with any less sensitivity and tenderness, “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women” would slip into sexual fantasy, but the film crafts an earnest, loving relationship that just happens to include three people.

...When “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women” focuses on a loving romantic relationship between three people, it’s an amazing, groundbreaking film. But when it’s actually about Wonder Woman, the film hits the brakes and tells a story it seems like Robinson feels obligated to tell, rather than something she wants to tell.

Crafting a believable, emotional and highly sexual relationship between three individuals is a nearly impossible task, and on that front, the movie miraculously succeeds. It is only when the film cares more about comic books that it suffers and falls into the arena of conventional historical biopics.

● The movie's Facebook page.

All posts here about the movie (including this one; scroll down).


● So: Will you get up a group from your poly community for opening night? That's Friday October 13 in the US, ten days.

Want to be a voice in your local media? This is a real opportunity. Call entertainment reporters at your local papers and TV stations and find one who'll meet your group in the theater lobby to get real polyfolks' reactions after the show. I bet you'll find one who'll jump at the chance; this is the kind of local human-interest angle reporters go for.

Here in the Boston area, Polyamory New England is already trying to do this.

In Canada, Sony Pictures, the distributor there, has reached out on its own to the poly community to offer invitations to special advance showings. Steve K of the Canadian Polyamory Advocacy Association (CPAA) wrote to the Polyamory Leadership Network:

In both Vancouver and Montreal, Sony Pictures Entertainment, the distributor of the film, has taken the initiative to invite local polyamorists to a special advance screening. In Vancouver, people less shy and more "out" plan to attend the advance screening wearing polyamory pins and ready to do interviews.

In Toronto, the film aired during the Toronto International Film Festival and airs again October 11 at the Toronto LGBT Film Festival.

In the US the distributor is Annapurna Pictures. Call them at 310-385-7701, ask for the publicity department, and ask them about advance screenings in your area. Remind them that their counterparts in Canada are inviting poly groups to advance screenings, especially groups with people willing to talk to reporters on the spot. "There's a lot of poly-community enthusiasm building for this movie. Can you help us out here?"




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