Madame Curie cover

STUDIO: Warner Bros.
MSRP: $19.97
RUNNING TIME: 124 Minutes
• "The Romance of Radium" vintage short
• Greer Garson trailer gallery

The Pitch

your favorite silver screen legends doing cold readings from your physics and
chemistry textbooks."

The Humans

Garson (The Singing Nun), Walter Pidgeon (Funny Girl)

The Nutshell

Polish student Marie has got the brains to succeed in the academic world, but
being a) poor and b) a woman from before the 60s, her resources are a bit
lacking. What’s a girl to do? Why, meet the man of her dreams, of course; if he
just happens to have his own research lab and possesses a keen scientific mind,
well so much the better. Together Marie and her new husband, Dr. Curie, poke
their scientific instruments at the world and their less sophisticated tools at
each other, discovering quite a few things along the line, such as radium and,
presumably, the orgasm.

Oh Mary, Mary, Mary.
You thought a spoonful of sugar would make the traffic slow down…

The Lowdown

When I
was a young nerd, distinguishable only from my present state by age, I used to
get a lot of weird stares whenever I declared that I enjoyed going to school. As
far back as grade school, I learned that when I made such a claim it helped me
stick out, gave me an identity. I was a sad, awkward little boy, who once moved
his desk away from that of girl who
liked him because he wanted to focus on his class work.

As it
turned out, such repeated suggestions to myself actually ended up giving me a
genuine enjoyment of learning. (And no girls.) In short, I found how rewarding
simple discovery can be, even if I wasn’t treading any new ground. In shorts, I
was pasty and scrawny.

Madame Curie is a biopic that may well appeal
to souls like me who appreciate education in the abstract, if not always in the
concrete. It’s far more concerned with the "bio" than the
"pic," recreating the labor of chemical research on screen with the
minimum of glamour. It’s not at all like the biopics of modern days, such as Walk
the Line
, in which a dramatic arc is imposed on nature. The propulsion
through the material will only work for an audience which both enjoys the
process of discovery as regards the biographical content of the Curies’ lives,
and also finds an attraction to watching other people step through that same
process of discovery.

Whistler’s Research Scientist

In the
strictest sense, it’s boring; in a looser sense, it’s, uh, deliberately paced. The
relationship between the Curies is ironically lacking chemistry, despite the
great on-screen married relationship that Garson and Pidgeon displayed in the
previous year’s war drama Mrs. Miniver. Here, they describe
the shape of a triangle, common in couples of shared interests, with Marie at one point, Dr. Curie at another, and
their passion for science at the third. As they both move toward science,
they seem to kind of accidentally move closer to each other. It’s not a smooth journey, primarily because it lacks many of the awkward charms that define stories about intellectuals finding love.

Unfortunately, it’s also not
a scenario that makes for a compelling drama, nor does it allow for much in the
cinematic understanding of romance. It’s elegant and refined, in the idiom of
40s films, but its scientific subject ends up being more interesting than its
human ones.

"Observe how, as I take a drink from this glass,
the dummy continues to recite Newton’s laws of thermodynamics."

The Package

For those
with short attention spans, the disc includes the abridged version of the film
in the form of a vintage short "The Romance of Radium." It’s almost
an argument for reclaiming the word "romance" as a synonym for
"adventure," except there’s absolutely nothing adventurous about this
short. It’s a brief documentary that covers the same territory as the film, but
without the embellishments of character.

There are also trailers for Greer Garson films, including Goodbye Mr. Chips, Madame Curie, Mrs. Miniver, Pride and Prejudice, and Random Harvest.

7 out of 10