The Theory of Everything is a film that keeps coming up when people are picking what will be a frontrunner in the Academy Awards race. As of right now, many are pegging this film to win big on that Sunday evening in Sunny Southern California. The film is about the life and times of Stephen Hawking, as well as his wife Jane. It’s been playing at the awards circuit to much fanfare, and even Stephen Hawking himself was very pleased with the final results. One of the many things that drew me to the film was that it was directed by James Marsh, who won an Oscar six years ago for directing a documentary called Man on Wire, which I’ve adored ever since I saw the film on Demand when I was younger. The Theory of Everything was recently released in Austin this past weekend, and I was able to sneak away on Tuesday afternoon (thank you Ms. McIntyre) to go see the film. Here’s my review.
As I mentioned previously, the film tells the story of Stephen and Jane Hawking. They met when they were students at Cambridge in the 1960’s. Stephen, played by Eddie Redmayne, was majoring in Science while Jane, played by Felicity Jones, was majoring in French. Both of them struck it off instantly, even though Jane grew up in the church and Stephen did not. With all that aside, they fall in love almost instantly, even when Stephen’s health takes a turn for the worse when he can’t walk and talk in a functional manner due to Lou Gehrig’s disease. The film also details Hawking’s discovery of black holes in the universe, and his fame and recognition throughout his life.
Marsh directs a screenplay by Anthony McCarten, whose been wanting to adapt the story of Stephen Hawking ever since he read his first book “A Brief History in Time”, but later bought the rights to adapt Jane’s memoir “Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen Hawking”. McCarten spent years trying to convince the real Mrs. Hawking to bring the story to life, which is something I didn’t really know going into this film. However, The Theory of Everything is a pretty run of the mill biopic with a pretty run of the mill screenplay. But what makes the film really unique is the direction by Mr. Marsh, and the performances by Jones and Redmayne, with heavy emphasis on Redmayne’s performance. Many are already pegging Redmayne to be the frontrunner for the Best Actor trophy, and I really don’t see myself arguing with those pundits. Redmayne’s performance is very similar to Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot, where Mr. Day-Lewis had to play a real life figure of disability. Redmayne’s performance in The Theory of Everything is as good if not better than Day-Lewis in that film.
It’s a really brilliant performance that’s as much heartbreaking as it is uplifting. Redmayne captures every little detail of Stephen Hawking physically as he does mentally. While the film itself doesn’t stand out compared to the other great films I’ve seen this year, Redmayne in this film definitely stands out. Felicity Jones, an actress who I’ve begun to admire ever since I saw her in Like Crazy a couple of years ago, is really terrific as Jane Hawking in the film. Of all the pain and suffering that went on during their marriage, Jones is able to convey it all, and stuck by Hawking up until their divorce in 1995 (no spoiler there, it’s all based on a true story). I also really liked the score in the film by Jóhann Jóhannsson, which was quite lovely and very cinematic. The cinematography was also quite beautiful, as was the editing. As I mentioned before, the film is just your average run of the mill biopic that doesn’t really try to do anything unique with how they tell its story. The film opens in Cambridge and ends somewhere in the 90’s or 2000’s. It doesn’t bounce back and forth in time, and it kind of dragged a bit for me.
But aside from that, The Theory of Everything is worth viewing solely on Redmaye and Jones in the film. Redmayne may win the Academy Award, and Felicity Jones has a pretty good shot herself. The film is kind of poor mans A Beautiful Mind, and I say poor mans because similar to that film’s run of the mill biopic feel (the story of John Nash is kind of similar to Hawking, even though Nash was mentally ill). It had great performances, great direction by Ron Howard, the best cinematographer in the business, Roger Deakins, behind the camera. And James Horner giving arguably his best film score to date. This film unfortunately did not have those things, but for what it is, it’s pretty good, not great. It’s a very lovely tribute to Hawking, but other than the performances, it really isn’t a whole lot more than just that. The film will probably get a Best Picture nomination because the Academy loves films like these over other, much better English films like Locke, but what are you gonna do?