Released last year in the United States, My Wonder Women arrives today in French theaters. Centered on the origins of Wonder Woman’s creation, and coming out less than a year after Patty Jenkins’ hit movie, this biopic might seem opportunistic. Yet Angela Robinson’s third feature film turns out to be more subversive, complex and interesting than the name of its director might suggest. At least for a while.
In the 1930s and 1940s, William Marston (Luke Evans) taught psychology at Harvard University. With his wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall), he is researching the lie detector. In this context, the couple are joined by a student, Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote) who becomes their assistant and then their lover. The lie detector tests to which the two women lend themselves as part of this research offer William an unprecedented light on the human psyche. And it is from this light that he will draw inspiration to create the famous character of Wonder Woman.
After making DEBS and The Ladybug Returns , Angela Robinson returns behind the camera to film this biopic. A true artistic complement to the blockbuster of DC Comics and Patty Jenkins , My Wonder Women is the intellectual and “realistic” counterpart of the latter. A legitimate project. However, has it been successfully completed?
“ Are you normal? What is normality? “, Asks Marston of his students from the first minutes. These questions immediately reveal the whole problematic of the film. And his greatest strength. At first glance, it can be difficult to make the connection between the invention of the lie detector and the creation of the character of Wonder Woman. However, this is where the interest of the work lies largely. Within the story, the two elements turn out to be intimately linked.
The first brings the second and nourishes it with a sociological and psychoanalytic dimension. The lie detector indeed serves to reveal what we really are, behind our persona, ie our social mask. The one we take every day to literally play the comedy and make us accept others and society.
The original Wonder Woman character created by Marston will therefore prove to be extremely subversive, even deeply “deviant” in the eyes of some. In comparison, the heroine played by Gal Gadot in Patty Jenkins’ film appears to be a totally censored version of the protagonist. My Wonder Women also fines the 50 Shades of Gray trilogy in a student and sadomasochistic initiation sequence. A more fascinating than average sexual ambiguity that makes this film, for a while, as intelligent as it is immersive.
Unfortunately, once the character of Olive accepts his own “deviance” by falling into the arms of the Marston couple after forty minutes, the footage seems incapable of properly renewing its stakes. The narrative arc devoted to the creation of the paper character of the Amazon and its reception is developed in a way too elliptical. The film is content to state the major historical stages without taking the time to give them a deeper dimension. We could have hoped that the script would turn art (comics in this case) into a power capable of fighting against the conservative mores of the real world. The filmmaker nevertheless seems unable to convey this idea and is content to give a superficial overview.
Likewise, the love story between the pupil and his two masters takes precedence over the psychoanalytic story that began until then. But without the madness or the emotion necessary to continue to make us believe in the relations maintained by the protagonists. We think then of what a director like David O. Russell could have done with such a starting idea. Opting for her incredible talent for portraying anti-conformist characters ( Happiness Therapy , American Bluff ) would have been a choice, certainly more radical, but undoubtedly more profitable considering the shyness shown by My Wonder Women .
The whole paradox of the footage may also be there. Speaking of passionate misfits who fight against a society that passes its reactionary values for the norm, Angela Robinson’s film seems to have almost forgotten to be, too, embodied and “different” from the rest of the film production. . Because once again, we must remember the obvious: being subversive does not depend so much on the nature of the subject as on the way in which it is treated.