What if Marylin Monroe, Albert Einstein, Joe Dimaggio and Senator McCarthy were to come together in a mind-bending evening of relativity?
This delightful roman à clef never uses the actual names of the characters it so thinly veils and scathingly exposes not only for the individuals they must have been, but also for what they came to represent over time. If you are confused by allegory, or if you like your movies served up predigested and mushy, you won't like this film. It is a demanding opus that rewards on many levels the viewer with the intelligence to appreciate it.
Dropping, for the time being, the rigorous avoidance of using the real names of the characters, we see Einstein, about to deliver a pacifist speech to a United Nations hell-bent for nukes, being visited by Marylin Monroe, after filming the notorious Seven Year Itch scene that some say led to the end of her marriage with Joe Dimaggio. They have a lovely interplay in which Einstein stumbles with suitable professorial clumsiness around the innocence of perhaps the greatest sex symbol of modern times.
Enter Senator McCarthy who thinks Einstein is a Red. He is determined to extract Einstein's assurance that he will support the activities of the House Unamerican Activities Committee while delivering the ultimate weapon in the name of peace. Add Joe, a surprisingly fragile and vulnerable person perhaps not perfectly cast as Gary Busey, who hates Marylin's exhibitionism and believes Einstein has become her lover, even though Marylin only wants to show Einstein that she understands the Special Theory of Relativity.
But there's more.
Just like each of us, these characters have their deepest fears, which they reveal one by one in haunting flashbacks. It is these weaknesses, ultimately, that lend humanity to figures we cannot help but see almost exclusively in the abstract today. Finally, we see the shocking terror of Einstein's vision, and the statement of the movie becomes clear. It is a powerful and memorable moment.
Insignificance is one of my top five movies of all time. It is utterly amazing.