“The Theory of Everything” (2014): Biopic By The Numbers… (Review)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

Overall: 8.0/10

Written By Joseph Falcone


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  • Brittani

    Excellent review! I’m excited to see this one. It does seem like Redmayne will be in the Lead Actor race for sure. Maybe Jones as well.

  • Cindy

    Joseph, great review as usual. I’m a sucker for biopics and usually forgive sappy dialogue in exchange for insight in a complicated person. Unconditional love is always appealing–I am sorry to hear there’s only a glossing over his scientific contributions. A layman’s explanation was what I was hoping for. Still, I bet I’ll get around to watching this soon. Thanks!

  • Zoë

    Hmmmmmmmmm… we shall see. Someday, we shall see!

    I’m sure I don’t have to tell you, but I’m going to say it anyway, excellent write up! 😀

  • fernandorafael_c2c

    Great review, Joe. Curious about this one, especially for Eddie Redmayne’s performance.

  • Joseph

    Thanks Fernando! Redmayne definitely loses himself in the role, a remarkable turn, no doubt!

  • Joseph

    Much thanks, as always Zoe! Give it a whirl, undoubtedly worth it, if only for the performances.

  • Joseph

    Thank you! Jones is magnificent, really hope she grabs a nomination, at the very least. The only question left unanswered is whether Redmayne will win or lose…

  • Joseph

    Thanks a ton! It’s a traditional biopic that chooses to showcase Hawking’s more personal moments over his scientific contributions, you won’t even get a layman’s explanation. Still worth the watch, just for the appealing imagery and strong performances.

  • Tom

    Killer review Joseph. What you have listed in ‘The Bad’ and ‘The Ugly’ echo my greatest fears about this ostensibly by-the-numbers (also dully noted by you) film. Won’t be enough to stop me from buying a ticket, though. Redmayne looks too good.

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  • Michael Thomas-Knight

    definitely want to see this! Great review, Joe 🙂

  • Niall McArdle

    great review. there are definite moments of cheese; the lack of science did not bother me as much as it did you, mainly because i think the film is really far more about his marriage than anything else … and i think felicity jones is just wonderful, and i do hope that she gets as much praise as redmayne will, because as you point out the film is as much hers as his. my thoughts on it here: http://ragingfluff.wordpress.com/2015/01/03/7105/