Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Theory of Everything review

If you don't know who Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones are, you definitely will after watching this movie. The two give crackling, dynamic, Oscar-worthy performances as Stephen and Jane Hawking in The Theory of Everything. Redmayne's physical transformation is incredible and his performance is breathtakingly precise. Jones is much more subdued, but even more impressive in many ways. It's a shame that the film is less interesting, a traditional period piece that is only elevated by two outstanding actors. The story meanders its way through and I can't say that I was ever moved or truly hooked by this movie. It's a noble effort, but not one that I particularly enjoyed. Although I hoped this wouldn't be the case, the general critics consensus on this one is correct: stellar performances, merely decent film.


The Theory of Everything tracks the extraordinary life of Stephen Hawking (Redmayne), the acclaimed cosmologist, who is in search of the one theory that will explain everything about life. At Cambridge University, he writes his thesis about a black hole theory that proves the universe was born from a black hole explosion. When he is at Cambridge, he also meets Jane (Jones). The two fall in love, but their relationship is tested when Stephen is diagnosed with ALS and given a life expectancy of two years. However, Jane is determined to keep their relationship strong. The two get married, have a kid and fight the illness for many years thanks to Stephen's determination and Jane's amazing strength.

Hawking's story is incredible and the fact that he was able to persevere through so much is absolutely amazing. And Jane also deserves so much credit- she managed to take care of Stephen and raise three kids. That's quite a feat. Redmayne and Jones definitely do justice to these great people. Jones is able to channel Jane's drive and resolve, while Redmayne manages to fully embody Hawking. Every single movement is exact and I was thoroughly amazed by Redmayne's performance. The supporting cast is completely overshadowed by these amazing lead performances, but some actors manage to stand out. David Thewlis is quite good as Hawking's friend and college professor, while Charlie Cox is solid as Johnathan as well.

As for the rest of the film, there really isn't too terribly much to say. I can't say that I was very interested in this film going in and it never managed to hook me or pique my interest at all while I was watching it. I found the film to be a bit of a slog at times and I was never overly involved or interested in the action that was going on. The first half hour at Cambridge is pretty solid, but the rest of the film is extremely dull. As Hawking loses his ability to speak, eat and move, Redmayne's performance becomes much more exceptional and the film becomes significantly less interesting.

The main problem with this movie is that there just isn't anywhere to go with it. Hawking overcame obstacles and managed to defy expectations, but there isn't an endpoint to the story. Director James Marsh and screenwriter Anthony McCarten manage to touch on many different plot points, yet they never can truly decide what story they want to tell.

What this film truly suffers from is a lack of cohesive focus. Hawking's love story with his Jane, her second husband, his second wife, his theory of everything, his scientific papers, their children- all of these subjects come up during this film. Much of it manages to work together well, but the science stuff feels incredibly out of place. This movie seems focused on telling the story of Jane and Stephen for much of the film, yet it'll throw a curveball at you and start discussing Stephen's black hole theory. Both aspects of Hawking's life are equally amazing, but focusing on one 80% of the time and then intermittently throwing the other one in there occasionally just doesn't truly work.

This film is also quite bland, hitting all the right notes but never doing anything truly interesting. The cinematography is about as drab as you can get, with no sense of color, but also a lack of style as well. The dearth of humor is quite concerning at times, with no moments of genuine fun during the film at all. 2014's other British biopic, The Imitation Game, does a much better job of balancing both the emotional and humorous aspects of the film.

Towards the second half of The Theory of Everything, it started to really lose me. The performances only grew more and more outstanding, but the filmmakers handled the material really poorly. As the tougher material started to appear, Marsh and McCarten start to shy away, only hinting at integral plot points. The relationships became more convoluted, the narrative became much more scattered and I started to get bored. I felt a little bit of inspiration at the end of the film, but it wasn't enough.

The Theory of Everything is worth seeing at some point for Redmayne and Jones. They are absolutely terrific and their work deserves to be recognized. It's unfortunate that the rest of the film is so dull. The musical score is seemingly non-existent for much of the film and the movie becomes less interesting as it continues on. Hawking's story is incredible and Jane's perseverance is admirable, but this film is simply too long, too boring and too scattered to be truly great.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B-                                             (6.6/10)



Image Credits: Variety, Hollywood Reporter, Indiewire, Huffington Post, Screen Rant

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