It’s as compassionate and life-affirming a tale we as a species can refer to. The story of Stephen Hawking is one of incomparable perseverance and enthralling relationships that eloquently denotes the limitless capabilities of both the human mind and heart. The latest installment in the Hawking biopic sub-genre, The Theory of Everything, might accentuate the more metaphysical experiences of the man rather than his immeasurable, fact-based contributions to the evolution of our kinds understanding of the universe and our existence. Yet director James Marsh’s vision is one that perhaps transcends where previous efforts have faltered and painstakingly delivers a heart-bursting gaze into the man behind the science.
The only purely negative critique I can give is that the film, at times, uses Hawking’s achievements, whether it be in the field of cosmology or his more personal triumphs, as mere hallmark moments. A macaroni picture of quantum mechanics and black holes hung upon a fridge, held in place by a few tacky, worn magnets. The Theory of Everything focuses more on the sentiment rather than the science, diluting what is only a handful of accolades to begin with that our generation will ever witness or lay claim to. As I’m sure this is not what Marsh intended, I can overlook the glaring misuse of Hawking’s genius for the betterment of this picture, but it does leave a bitter aftertaste.
More a personal tick than grievous error, the fact that we’re obviously going in to the film with previous knowledge of Hawking’s disease and the affects it has had not only on him, but those whose lives he’s influenced directly, make it somewhat uncomfortable to enjoy the years leading up to the inevitable. By no means did I dismiss the film’s first act based on this uneasiness and nor should you. It’s imperative to gain a feel for Stephen’s personality, intellect, and compassion prior to the onset of ALS, so that we may perceive the unchanging formidability of humanity through vulnerability, in every sense of the word. That said, it’s near impossible to place Hawking apart from his illness, a harsh truth, no doubt. So proceed with cautionary optimism, and prepared to be dealt a devastating emotional blow.
Based on Jane Hawking’s memoir entitled “Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen Hawking,” The Theory of Everything is as much about the lady behind the man as it is about the man behind the science. Portrayed by the radiant Felicity Jones, Jane Hawking’s truly unconditional love and intangible determination dominate and inspire each moment Jones in focus. Felicity channels enough boundless, indestructible emotion and tooth-and-nail tenacity to move mountains. Jones brings both the beauty and the brains to The Theory of Everything’s Jane Hawking and there’s no doubt in my mind that Jones will receive much acclaim come award season.
Much like his counterpart, Stephen Hawking himself Eddie Redmayne, appears destined to be the latest Best-Actor In A Leading Role front-runner. Capturing the gentle charisma, intellectual humour, and physical mannerisms of Hawking both pre and post ALS. Redmayne truly makes The Theory of Everything a grueling, accurate, and rewarding experience. He might not have the IQ, but each passing second of Redmayne as Hawking feels like a genuine “eureka” moment.
If you can wade through the occasionally mushy dialogue and at times overwhelming adoration, The Theory of Everything is a powerful biopic, even if it is a little too “by the numbers.” Along with its two leads, the costume and set departments both look to be on the fast track to multiple award-season nominations. Marsh’s flick is undeniably stunning visually and will leave viewers an emotional wreck. Unfortunately, this doesn’t have a whole lot to do with his vision or execution as most of what makes “The Theory of Everything” a must-watch of 2014 is out of his hands.
On a side note, give the 2004 TV film “Hawking” a whirl whether or not you plan on seeing this flick. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Stephen, who gives an equally remarkable turn as the title character, “Hawking” is in my opinion, the superior film.
The Good: Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne give award-winning caliber performances
The Bad: A pungent aroma of cheese throughout the film
The Ugly: Where’s the science?