Monday, February 1, 2021

52 Films By Women Challenge - Professor Marston and The Wonder Women (2017) and D.E.B.S. (2004)

In 2015, the Los Angeles' Women in Film started a challenge to watch one film by a female director every week for a year. I've seen this floating around social media and movie blogs for a while, and always meant to join in. For 2021, I finally decided to try it out this year as one of my resolutions. 

Every week I thought it'd be fun to do a quick round-up of the film(s) I've watched for the challenge. The films I chose for the challenge are on letterboxd - if you want to see the slate so far - but I'm not going in an particular order of alphabetical or chronological.

I'm still playing catch-up to post my thoughts from the past few weeks. My next two films are directed by Angela Robinson - Professor Marston and the Wonder Women (2017) and D.E.B.S (2004).

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women 

Scientist and psychologist William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans) and his wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) are in the midst of developing the lie detector system when a young student Olive (Bella Heathcoate) catches their eye. Even though she's initially hired as their secretary, their relationship grows into a love triangle. The tenacity, beauty, sexuality, and intelligence of both women eventually inspire Marston to create Wonder Woman.

Told from the point of view of Marston, the story unfolds everything that makes up the comic’s origins – his psychological studies of human interactions based on dominance or submission, how William, Elizabeth and Olive fell in love, and how his reverence for women led to creating Diana Prince. The chemistry between Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall and Bella Heathcoate is both heated and tender, and it was enjoyable to see a story where the leads take a courageous chance on unconventional love in a world – then and now – would shut down or find controversial / dangerous / etc. 

As the writer and director, Angela Robinson has a good hold of the characters. She mediated their different wants and needs from each other. While the film itself isn’t explicit, it is refreshingly direct in introducing a ménage à trois the same way we enjoy standard romantic dramas between two straight leads. The move is especially daring since Wonder Woman has been refashioned as a role model for young girls over the years, despite depicting Diane as being tied up or tying up her victims in considerably hypersexual ways in its heydays. 

As much as I loved seeing bisexual relationships told with such positivity and conviction, the film's take on Marston's relationship with Elizabeth and Olive is quite the controversy. While Robinson delves into several notable truths about his work and their lives, she interpreted their romantic dynamics on her own. Her ideas were enough to provoke one of Marston’s grand-daughters to lead a social media campaign #LassoTheTruth in an attempt to dispel that her mothers and fathers' relationship was sexual - saying she's sure Elizabeth and Olive weren't in love but can't be swear by it. Even though many biopics change details to fit a plot, it's disheartening to have to face that the central details of the film that beautifully expresses bisexuality might be more fiction than fact. Otherwise, it’s a solid non-franchise entry into the graphic novel genres and probably one of my favorites - but I'll have to enjoy future viewings with a grain of salt.
Rating: ★★1/2☆

D.E.B.S

An elite paramilitary academy of spies known as D.E.B.S. are tasked with surveying a world renown criminals Lucy Diamond (Jordan Brewster). One of the squad leaders Amy (Sarah Foster) inexplicably finds herself having to choose between falling in love with Lucy or her future after a failed stake-out.

I didn't quite know if I should've expected this to be an intense thriller or action comedy. Surprisingly, it's more of a traditional romantic comedy set against the background of spies and villains. Director Angela Robinson employs fun dialogue and gags that keeps the plot moving along. Between this and Professor Marston and The Wonder Women, it was wonderful to see how well she maintains a balance of her original stories and branch out into different genres. She truly has a firm grasp of her creativity and style as a director.

While the film offers a good amount of action, comedy, and romance, it's sorely inhibited by its limited budget. The main draw of the film is the D.E.B.S world as stealthy spies, but the lack of cohesive stunts, costumes, special effects, etc. makes the characters too kitsch to be believable. The cast looks like they're having fun, but it's also noticeable how much they're working with what they have on hand to come across as less green as possible. There's not a lot to "write home" about except that it's a quirky and refreshing rom-com. Despite the lower rating, I enjoyed the film and appreciate its cult status in the LGBTQ+ community.
Rating: ★1/2☆☆

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