The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (1972) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (1972)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Paul Zindel, this is a joint effort of husband and wife team Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman. Produced and directed by Newman, Woodward portrays the eccentric young widow who is raising her two disparate daughters in an atmosphere of bitterness, hatred and over-protection that threatens their very growth and development. Embittered and misandristic, she raises her daughters in an atmosphere of hate that leaves them as depressed and neurotic as she is. The title of the movie comes from her anger at her daughter's science teacher for encouraging her to expose marigolds to gamma rays as a science project. Her experiment shows how radiation sometimes kills growing marigolds, but sometimes it causes them to grow even more beautiful. This experiment becomes a metaphor for her own life, as she struggles to bloom in a household deadened by her mother's alcoholism and her sister's lethargy.
Classics , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
20th Century Fox


Joanne Woodward
as Beatrice
Nell Potts
as Matilda
David Spielberg
as Mr. Goodman
Carolyn Coates
as Mrs. McKay
Will Hare
as Junk Man
Estelle Omens
as Caroline
Jess Osuna
as Sonny
Debra Lynn Rogers
as Miss Hanley
Ellen Dano
as Janice Vickery
Roger Serbagi
as Neighbor
John Lehne
as Apartment Manager
Michael Kearney
as Chris Burns
Dee Victor
as Miss Wyant
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds

All Critics (7) | Top Critics (5)

The talents of everyone connected with it are unmistakable, including those of Mr. Newman... It's just that the basic material calls for a kind of second-rate bravura performance from everyone, from the production designer to the actors.

Full Review… | January 14, 2014
New York Times
Top Critic

Sentimental without really being tender, naturalistic without being real.

Full Review… | January 14, 2014
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

Newman and Woodward's daughter Potts steals the movie, but what makes it so watchable is Newman's reluctance to sentimentalise.

Full Review… | January 14, 2014
Time Out
Top Critic

Producer-director Paul Newman has made his finest behind-the-camera film to date in the screen version of Paul Zindel's play.

Full Review… | January 14, 2014
Top Critic

Joanne Woodward's performance is not like anything she's ever done before.

Full Review… | January 14, 2014
Top Critic

Joanne Woodward is superb.

Full Review… | January 14, 2014
TV Guide

Audience Reviews for The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds

Another Family Affair by The Newman's: Joanne Woodward as Beatrice the Bitter Drunken Widow,Paul Newman Directing & Producing,& their Daughter, a Teenage Nell Potts as the shy & unhappy Science Nerd Daughter, Matilda.The Show Stealer though is clearly Eli Wallach's daughter, Roberta Wallach, who is the older Teenage Daughter,Ruth,who has Epilepsy & Sleep Walking Nightmare's, enhanced by by the repression of the Household of Hate.Roberta Wallach gives a few amazing angst filled performances. Forced to take in another Elderly Boarder after the other one dies in their home is just one of the the challenges that make for an unpleasant atmosphere for this Widow/Single Mother & her two Teenage Girls in a Cynical World that knows mostly sadness.The Outrageous, misleading title derives from Matilda(Nell Potts)'s Science Project & is a Metaphor for their life & how they can change it if they put a little effort into it.Excellent Performances all around, by Joanne Woodward, Nell Potts, but esp. Roberta Wallach

Marilee Aschwanden
Marilee Aschwanden

Had Woodward been as cynical, joyless, and venom-filled as the character she portrays, I seriously doubt her marriage would have lasted all these years. Interestingly enough, it is her husband who directed her through what amounts to a fine performance -- their daughter also plays Matilda, by the way. All of the roles in the film are demanding ones, so it's quite an accomplishment that the cast members turn in such authentic characterizations. Let's face it, Woodward has been much underrated as a film actress, and here she takes an unpleasant character and makes her someone that the audience cannot take its eyes off of. Hints are dropped about Beatrice's once promising future, which we can see for ourselves has never been realized. As a mother all she is capable of any longer is berating her daughters and generating more pitiful complaints. The daughters are a combination of youthful dreams and dread for an adulthood that is every bit as dank as their mother's present. Several signs suggest that Ruth is destined to become like her mother, and though both daughters' prospects remain intact when we last see them, it is sad-faced Matilda who seems destined to actually fulfill her promise.

Charles H.
Charles H.

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