RADIOACTIVE – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

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Feminist, feverish and flushed with the need to achieve her destiny while overcoming the scientific patriarchy that stood in her way, Rosamund Pike’s take on Marie Curie, the Polish-born mother of radium and polonium, gives the biopic Radioactive an indelible pulse and a tartly brusque sense of purpose. That said, I haven’t felt so nervous for a character’s well-being since Nicole Kidman’s cabaret performer Satine began coughing in between pop tunes in Moulin Rouge!

After Marie and her future husband and research partner Pierre Curie (Sam Riley) literally bump into each other on the Parisian streets, their intersecting destinies become sealed. The fact that the luminous element Marie discovered and the experiments they achieve will do a number on the state of their health for the rest of their lives is a macabre twist to their place in history.

Based on a graphic novel, director Marjane Satrapi (the Oscar-nominated Persepolis) puts some visual polish on Marie’s pursuits as she eventually becomes a mother to two smart daughters while becoming the only woman to win the Nobel Prize twice, for physics and chemistry. The Curies also cross paths with another historical figure, the so-called Serpentine dancer Loie Fuller, who spins about in a billowing white costume illuminated by colored lights.

I applaud any movie that has science embedded into its script to use what sounds like an eerie Theremin effect on its music soundtrack. That the storyline also jumps into the future to portray radium as a source of both good (X-rays, chemotherapy) and evil (the atomic bomb, Chernobyl) is fair game. I can’t say any character besides Marie leaves a major impression on the viewer. But given how many male-driven biopics portray women as supporters of masculine ambitions, it is always good when turnabout is fair game.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Radioactive is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for July 31, 2020

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Susan Wloszczyna

In her nearly 30 years at USA Today, Susan Wloszczyna interviewed everyone from Vincent Price and Shirley Temple to Julia Roberts and Will Smith. Her coverage specialties include animation, musicals, comedies and any film starring Hayley Mills, Sandy Dennis or hobbits. Her crowning career achievements so far, besides having Terence Stamp place his bare feet in her lap during an interview for The Limey, is convincing the paper to send her to New Zealand twice for set visits, once for The Return of the King and the other for The Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong, and getting to be a zombie extra and interview George Romero in makeup on the set for Land of the Dead. Though not impressive enough for Pulitzer consideration, she also can be blamed for coining the moniker "Frat Pack," often used to describe the comedy clique that includes Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. Her positions have included Life section copy desk chief for four years and a film reviewer for 12 years. She is currently a senior editor for the online awards site Gold Derby. Previously, she has been a freelance film reporter and critic, contributing regularly to RogerEbert.com, MPAA’s The Credits, the Washington Post, AARP The Magazine online and Indiewire as well as being a book reviewer for The Buffalo News. She previously worked as a feature editor at the Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, N.Y. A Buffalo native, she earned her bachelor's degree in English at Canisius College and a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.