ITOL Top 50 Films of the Decade, Entry No. 35: Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

Year: 2017

Runtime: 108 minutes

Director: Angela Robinson

Writer: Angela Robinson

Stars: Rebecca Hall, Luke Evans, Bella Heathcote

By Jenni Holtz


All too often, biopics are dismissed, especially by younger audiences, for being boring or Oscar-bait-y. They tend to be successful with older moviegoers and award shows, but the response from younger viewers appears lackluster in comparison. “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women” defies the gripes some have with biopics. It confronts bisexuality, polyamory, and the oppression of women in the 1930s while telling the story of Professor William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans) and his wife Elizabeth Holloway Marston (Rebecca Hall) and their polyamorous lover, Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote). 


Writer and director Angela Robinson crafts a beautifully romantic biopic with “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women” (2017). The film follows the ebb and flow of the Marston’s relationship with Olive over time, beginning with when they meet at Harvard and Radcliffe colleges. Immediately, Elizabeth and William are taken with Olive’s beauty. The more time they spend with her, they each develop strong feelings for Olive. They spend time together doing social science research at Olive’s sorority, testing prototypes of the lie detector test, and parsing out how they can make their relationship work. Given that polyamory and bisexuality were frowned upon especially by the academy where the Marstons worked, their triad relationship with Olive was a huge risk. It affected the way all three were viewed by employers and neighbors, but they manage to make it work despite the hardships. 


Like many blockbusters, “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women” is based on a true story but takes creative control in some aspects. The premise itself and the fantastic achievements of Elizabeth and William are all completely true. The two, though they faced adversity due to their polyamorous relationship, both were ultimately successful in their fields and made lasting impacts in addition to the Wonder Woman comics.


Elizabeth, a lawyer and psychologist, developed a systolic blood pressure measurement used as part of the lie detector. William was a psychologist and writer known for D.I.S.C. (Dominance, Inducement, Submission, and Compliance) theory and a prototype of the lie detector test. William also penned the Wonder Woman comics which were heavily influenced by Elizabeth and Olive. 

The surviving family members of the Marstons were not consulted for the film and when asked, denied the romantic relationship between Olive and Elizabeth. Due to the secretive nature of the triad relationship, though, it’s hard to say whether even the family would now the full extent of the relationship’s dynamics. What is certainly true, though, is that the Marstons’ and Byrne’s relationship was unconventional and highly influential to the creation of Wonder Woman, one of the most famous female superheroes. 


Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


The Extra Bits:

Where to Watch:

Hulu: subscribers

Amazon: rent or buy

Google Play: rent or buy

Who to Follow:

Angela Robinson @RobinsonAngela



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