The Price Of Fame

Stars: Rosamund Pike, Sam Riley, Anya Taylor-Joy, Aneurin Barnard, Sian Brooke, Jeanne Parkinson, Edward Davis and Simon Russell Beale
Director: Marjane Satrapi
Scriptwriter: Jack Thorne based on “Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie” by Lauren Redniss
Composers: Evgueni Galperine and Sacha Galperine
Cinematography: Anthony Dod Mantle
Working Title Films/StudioCanal
Rating: R
Running Length: 111 Minutes 

One of my favorite scientists has been the late Marie Curie (1867-1934).  Reading about her experiments in science using primitive facilities—all she could get because she was a woman---is interesting.  Now, director Marjane Satrapi brings the story of Marie Sklodowska-Curie to the screen, with Rosamund Pike (“State of the Union” and “Gone Girl”) as the star. Sam Riley (“Maleficent”) is her husband, Pierre, and Sian Brooke (“Good Omens”) is one of Marie’s sister’s, Bronia.  Marie Curie’s story is told through flashbacks and how her discoveries changed our world. The cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle enhances the story. 

The film begins with an elderly Marie Curie looking back at her life and how she met her husband, Pierre Curie (Reilly) in Paris in 1893.  Marie has been having problems with a Professor Lippman (Simon Russell Beale) who has no respect for her or her work. There is no laboratory for her and eventually, Pierre has Marie share his lab.  Through hard work, Marie is on the track of a new element and with Pierre’s help, through time, she discovers two elements Polonium and Radium.  Romance blooms, and soon Marie and Pierre are married and have two daughters, Irene and Eve.  The Curie’s are now famous for their studies of radioactivity and they receive a Nobel Prize, but only under Pierre’s name. A crushing blow to Marie.  Her world is turned upside-down when tragedy hits the family.  From then on, Marie takes charge of her life and demands respect for her work.  It is also there, that another man, Paul Langevin (“Barkskins”) enters Marie’s life.  What to do?  According to Marie Curie, “One never notices what has been done, one can only see what remains to be done.” 

The scenes of Marie Curie’s life as a scientist are interspersed with scenes of her childhood, including a fear of hospitals. When scientists begin to notice there might be a danger from working with radioactivity, you see what the meltdown at Chernobyl has done.  Then, there is a positive factor, in what radioactivity, in x-rays machines, can do in battlefield hospitals. These machines were of great assistance during WWI.  The film “Radioactive” is a learning experience, too.  Where would we be today without such tools in the medical field? 

This is Rosamund Pike’s film and she takes the role of Marie Curie and runs with it.  How Curie found time to cook large kettles of ore to get samples to use, then had two daughters, ran a household and give presentations, is an example of multi-tasking at the turn of the century.  Any one of us would have given up after five hours over that hot ore kettle, but Marie Curie persevered.  Sam Reilly’s Pierre Curie is a scientist, willing to share with a woman, something that was rare then. Aneurin Barnard’s Paul Langevin is a sympathetic person and has to make a personal decision.  Anya Taylor-Joy is the daughter-scientist like her mother and her marriage to Frederic (Edward Davis) is the winning generation to come. 

“Radioactive” gives us a hard-fought battle and one that women are still fighting today no matter the field of endeavor. Throughout her life, Marie Curie was easily the smartest person in the room, though because of being a woman, was excluded from the count. It took years of research to win the top prize---The Nobel Prize---and then, the first time, it was jointly with her husband.  Looking at the history of the Sklodowska family from Poland, they were intellectuals, scientists and aimed for the top prize—Nobel.  Makes you look at yourself and ask, “what am I reaching for?” 


 Copyright 2020 Marie Asner