A Trip To The Movies – Review: “The Theory of Everything” 1.24.15

This was yet another film that was up on my list because more so maybe now than ever in years past, I’ve become much more inclined to go out and try to see all of the Academy Award nominated films that I at least have the slightest bit of interest in. Given that I’ve pretty much seen almost everything out that I’ve really wanted to see (no easy feat let me tell you) I’m getting down to the last few remaining picks before the Oscars. This being on my list in that it garnered nominations for Best Picture, Actor (Eddie Redmayne – who won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama), and Best Actress (Felicity Jones). Both actors who I was previously unfamiliar with prior to seeing this film. That and I learned just recently that it was directed by the great British director and documentarian James Marsh, who won the Best Documentary award with his breakthrough documentary “Man on Wire” (2008) about French tightrope walker Phillippe Petit (still considered to be one of the best documentaries ever made by both myself and many other people I know). He then enlisted himself to do part 2 of one of the best made-for-TV movie/miniseries that was broadcasted on TV in Britain – 2009’s “Red Riding: In The Year of Our Lord 1980”. Which was incredibly dark and took a probing look at a team of investigators attempting to stop the infamous Yorkshire Ripper in the eighties and nineties U.K. Then followed Marsh’s next documentary, the one in which he would yet again win a coveted prize for Best Documentary at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival for “Project Nim”. Following this he came back the year after to release “Shadow Dancer”. A suspense/thriller starring the great Clive Owen about an IRA informant in 1990’s Ireland. So to be perfectly honest I chose this film with the Oscar nominations in mind first plus the fact that I’ve really liked all of the director’s work that I had seen up to this point. The movie begins circa the early 1960’s and introduces us to real life, astrophysicist Stephen Hawking (played by Eddie Redmayne), who by a chance encounter meets Jane (played by Felicity Jones). Both are PhD students in different areas of study. The two seem smitten with one another, and Stephen puts his thesis on hold to develop a relationship with Jane. He does however seem to be interested in explaining the theories of both black holes and the creation of the universe. One day his muscles give out while he’s walking and he crash lands on his head. While hospitalized, the doctors tell Stephen that he has been diagnosed with a neurological disorder that will affect his motor skills, and in a matter of time almost all of the major muscles in his body will shut down, disabling him from being able to talk, walk, or move most of his body. Naturally as anyone would upon hearing such devastating news, Stephen begins to isolate himself from the others around him in which he cares for, particularly Jane, who after some avoiding confronts Stephen and confesses her love for him saying that she will be by his side no matter what. The two soon happily marry and have their first child but Stephen’s condition seems to be worsening. He does however prove his theory on black holes, and in doing so winds up becoming a world-recognized physicist. Though with Stephen’s degenerative disease and his condition it makes Jane’s life increasingly difficult, as taking care of both her children and Stephen begins to become a bit too overwhelming for her. Will their undeniable love for one another persevere or will Stephen’s increasingly worsening medical condition force them apart? This is one of the major themes of the story. One in which the rest of the film goes on to explore. I mostly enjoyed this film despite a few minor critiques of it. But before I get there I think it’s important for me to highlight the incredibly outstanding performance by Golden Globe winner Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking who is truly the heart and soul of this picture. I always hear people, especially critics, talk about how much easier it is for an actor to play someone developmentally challenged, who are dying with a disease, or have a mental illness (though spoofed perfectly in 2008’s “Tropic Thunder”). I would tend to disagree, as I think these kinds of roles feel like they’re far more challenging for the actor (just watch Javier Bardem in 2004’s “The Sea Inside” and then come talk to me). Redmayne here is astonishing as is Felicity Jones as his wife Jane (though unlike his performance I thought hers was not quiet worthy of a Best Actress nomination, though not taking away from the fact that it’s still a very fine performance). It mostly works as a part bio-pic as a look into the life of Hawking while also placing equal focus on the love story element of both he and his wife. Both of which I thought for the most part were nicely done. James Marsh’s direction here is superb as is the film’s cinematography. I also really enjoyed the film’s score by Johann Johannsson, who receieved a Golden Globe win and Oscar nomination for Best Original score for his work here. My couple of minor criticisms is that it kind of shied over a lot of his scientific accomplishments and what made him so famous in favor of focusing on the relationship component of the film. I also thought it was a bit conventional dramatically in terms of how films of this type typically play out. That and while effective, it pandered to the audience a bit by tugging at their heartstrings. All of that aside I liked how it focused more of showing the unflinching nature of the degenerative aspects of Hawking’s disease and how debilitating it actually was rather than show him overcoming it. To me that aspect came across as very real and I thought that was the way it should have been shown (similar to how Roger Ebert’s illness was depicted in last year’s brilliant “Life Itself”) in order to give it a sense of authenticity. Despite my few minor criticisms of it, there’s a lot to like in “The Theory of Everything”, especially the two lead performances, especially that of Redmayne’s. This is a powerful film even though slightly flawed that has a deep emotional core that moved me deeply from beginning to end despite its contrivances that I was ultimately willing to overlook because it was such a beautifully made film. [B]

3 thoughts on “A Trip To The Movies – Review: “The Theory of Everything” 1.24.15

  1. The Theory of Everything.. 85/B, previously, I didn’t know too much about Stephen Hawking but looked him up a good amount immediately following this movie.
    Stephen Hawking seems like a pretty exceptional guy but I didn’t find this movie to be all that phenomenal for a lot of the reasons you point out in your review (which I mostly agree with).
    I guess the choice to focus on Jane & Stephen’s relationship more so than show Hawking’s scientific accomplishments is because this movie is based on a book or a memoir written by Jane about her marriage to Hawking.
    I was pretty wowed by the performance of the actor that played Stephen Hawking – Eddie Redmayne was awesome in this; but otherwise, felt while this movie was pleasant to watch, it pretty much just skimmed through Hawking’s life events – I thought it would have dove deeper & I’m not just talking about into his achievements – I thought even the relationships were all developed only on the surface level.
    Overall, 85/B, won’t really be rooting for this one for any Oscars

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I liked that you brought up the comment about the film not necessarily being about Hawking’s scientific accomplishments than it was more a relationship drama of the depiction from Jane’s POV falling in love and being married to Hawking and all of the ups and downs of being in a relationship with someone with his disease. Which is understandable given that its source material was adapted from a novel written by Jane about their life. So while I maybe “wanted” it to be shown a little differently, that’s not really what it set out to depict.

    But I did think they could have done a better job in balancing the 2 pieces better and showcasing some of these said accomplishments. Because like you going into the film I knew little to next to nothing about Stephen Hawking other than that he was one of contemporary science’s living geniuses and that he was wheelchair bound. I guess I felt like I wanted to a know a bit more about Hawking the revolutionary scientist than I did about Hawking the lover, father, and husband.

    The last couple of things I wanted to say is that I thought Eddie Redmayne was phenemonal in this. An actor who I had previous been unfamilar with prior to seeing this film. At one point where all the major critics were pointing towards Michael Keaton to win Best Actor for “Birdman”. Redmayne picked up the SAG (Screen Actor’s Guild) award last weekend and get this – the last time an actor who won the SAG and “didn’t” win the Oscar was back in 2003. So look for Redmayne to possibly pick up his first Best Actor Oscar win on Sunday as that category, more than any of the others, is the tighest this year.

    Last but not least, while I thought Felicity Jones did a serviceable enough job here as Jane. I remember leaving the theater not really understanding how or why she got a Best Actress nomination. She played off Redmaybe well but in my opinion it certainly wasn’t worthy of a Best Actress nomination. Just my two cents.

    Great though to see a movie that we both graded similarly. A solid enough film but nothing groundbreaking here except for Redmayne’s performance and the score by Johann Johannsson which I found myself really liking and considering it to be one of, if not, this year’s best.

    Like

  3. I like ‘The Sea Inside’ reference in your original review.. I can still remember watching that movie together with you & it was the first night that you met Amanda up on a visit to your apartment in Portland, Maine – had to be like 2004 – funny how movies can denote a life event like that

    Liked by 1 person

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