What is the point of a biopic if it does not give the audience anything new? Is there any reason to watch a film about a famous person’s life that barely has more information than a Wikipedia article? Unfortunately, the Marie Curie biopic Radioactive does not answer these questions, and instead wastes the time of director Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis) and star Rosamund Pike with a dry, flat script. Despite focusing on a brilliant and fascinating person, Radioactive fails to elevate the material beyond standard biopic fare.
The film starts at the end of Marie Curie’s life, like so many films about historical figures do. From there, we flash back to Marie’s childhood, her first meeting with husband Pierre (Sam Riley) in Paris, her discovery of radium, the ensuing backlash over the dangers of radioactivity, Pierre’s death, and her Nobel Prize wins. The film’s single inspired notion comes in the form of animated sequences detailing Curie’s scientific discoveries. There is an attempt to connect Curie’s research to the creation of the atomic bomb (of course), but these flashforwards don’t do much but show us the inevitable.
Rising star Anya Taylor-Joy appears in the last third of the film as Curie’s daughter Irene, but it’s too late to salvage the film. Each scene is too slow, the colors too muted, the script far too basic. Overall, Radioactive is a frustrating experience as a fan of both Marjane Satrapi and Rosamund Pike. Persepolis, both the original graphic novel and Satrapi’s film, are essential explorations of a woman’s life in a society hostile towards her gender, but that is simply not true here. Six years after Gone Girl, we are all still waiting patiently for Pike to have another role worthy of her talent. Radioactive fails both of these creatives, and I hope their next projects do better.
Dir. Marjane Satrapi
Streams on Amazon Prime 7/24
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