Marie Curie is out of her element in Radioactive
The film has some surprises but is too unstable
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“I want to tell you about radium,” Marie Curie, the Sorbonne’s first female professor, informs her class in 1906 in Paris. “A most remarkable element that doesn’t behave as it should.”
The new film Radioactive depicts Curie (Rosamund Pike) in much the same way. Independent, almost anti-social, Curie excelled at science in an era when the laboratory was pretty much a boy’s club. She was the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize, and one of only four people ever to win twice.
The film doesn’t play as you’d expect, either. Besides reviewing Curie’s achievements, Radioactive (rated PG-13 for backside nudity and sensuality) puts some of her unsavory moments under the microscope: She explores spiritualism and has an affair with a married man after her husband and co-Nobelist, Pierre (Sam Riley), dies.
But the film’s nucleus doesn’t hold together. Numerous forward flashes examining the posthumous fallout—good and bad—of Curie’s discoveries (e.g., twice calling the Hiroshima atomic bombing “criminal”) disrupt pacing. Unstable in focus, Radioactive zips through important personal moments in her life.
A bright spot is the Curies’ marriage. Pierre respected Marie’s intellect and loved her deeply, winning her over in spite of herself.
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