Radioactive Movie Review
The good thing about the Marie Curie biopic Radioactive is that it isn’t about a writer or artist. The bad thing... it’s still a generically bland biopic that might as well have been about a writer or artist.
Those few people who hate themselves enough to read my reviews with some frequency know that I’ve developed a distaste for biopics about writers, artists, and singers. Though not without exceptions, the vast majority seem cut from the same drab cloth. The only reason they exist is because they are about people who the people who made them—writers and entertainers—conflate as being much greater contributors to mankind than they actually are.
So along comes Radioactive, about a famous female scientist who discovered new periodic elements—which led to incredible advances, both good (medical treatments) and bad (nuclear bombs).
Radioactive still is cut from the same cloth. About a British woman who must fight against the stodgy British establishment to get respect (sorry, she’s actually Polish-French and fighting the Parisian establishment, though I’d challenge you to notice the difference) this is a movie we’ve seen many times before in one form or another. Director Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis) struggles to tap into what made Curie unique, instead relying on a rote screenplay by Jack Thorne, which places the brilliant mind into the standard biopic formula. Radioactive goes through the motions with no sense of dynamism or apparent interest in standing out; it feels like a movie made to earn award nominations 20 years ago.
Rosamind Pike falls victim to the material; her performance is good, but does she elevate the film the way she did in A Private War or even Gone Girl? She put her heart into the performance but not her soul, and that in effect is the problem: Radioactive, a movie about objective science, lacks soul.
I knew very little about Curie or her work going in, and despite the fact Radioactive checks various boxes of her achievements, I feel like I still know very little about her. The movie is so generic I question how much is real and how much I watched was fabricated for melodrama and bland British (er, sorry, French) conflict. Even more confusing is that Satrapi and Thorne interlace Curie’s story with depictions of the attack on Hiroshima and even Chernobyl, despite both events happening long after her death. It was likely I just wasn’t paying that close of attention by that stage, but I was utterly confused when the movie, at the end, announces the year of her death as 1934.
For those who love biopics, Radioactive is largely harmless. Pike and her costars are fine, the drama is what it is, and it’s nice to see a brilliant female mind get her due. But Marie Curie deserves so much more. We would have been better off had the filmmakers focused exclusively on her discovery of radioactivity, the science behind it, and what really made her tick. Radioactive isn’t that movie.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.