The Theory of Everything – Review

17 Jan

Stephen Hawking is a man with more accomplishments than I can even list. His theories on the time, the beginning of the universe, and what we will become may be enough to make you head spin, but at the same time, it has always been easily accessible to people who want to learn. Surprisingly, there aren’t more biopics chronicling moments in Hawking’s life, with the only other I can think of being from the BBC. This one is The Theory of Everything, a movie that features some really stand out performances and a figure that is well worth the attention, but it falls a little flat in the storytelling department and just doesn’t feel as full as it could have been.

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In 1963, Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) is studying at Cambridge, working on getting his PhD in astrophysics. At a party one night, he meets a girl named Jane (Felicity Jones), and the two strike up an automatic friendship which turns into so much more. As Hawking is struggling with getting his thesis in order, he also begins struggling with smaller motions to get through the day. Soon after getting an idea, he discovers he has a type of ALS which will slowly render him unable to move, speak, or even swallow. Stephen and Jane soon get married, and despite the news of his disorder Stephen creates revolutionary theories that scientists have been working on for years. Soon, the name Stephen Hawking is known around the world, but to him, the battle for his health and relationships rage on.

When trailers for this movie were first released I was like, “Oh, shit. That guy playing Stephen Hawking looks insane.” I had no idea who Eddie Redmayne was at the time, but I just knew that this performance was going to be one to be remembered. That combined with the fact that the movie’s about Stephen Hawking was more than enough to make me want to see the movie. Here’s the thing, I’m gonna compare this to The Imitation Game since it’s another movie about a genius that I just saw and is being nominated all the same. The Theory of Everything has a performance in it that makes the movie worth seeing, it’s just so damn good. The Imitation Game has great performances, but the overall story is stronger and more hard hitting. Way more. That’s where The Theory of Everything loses its footing.

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To be fair, this movie covers many years, more than I initially thought that it would. It’s also only a two hour movie, so it isn’t some grand, epic biopic that has all of this time to kill with character development and padding for the plot. I will say that Hawking’s disease is shown well over time, with it getting progressively worse and worse, up until Stephen has to use a speech program to talk. One really annoying part in this movie is a part in the middle section where another, albeit important, character is introduced. All of a sudden, it seems like this new character becomes the plot, and not the life of Stephen Hawking. When Hawking does come back on screen for an extended amount of time, I almost forgot the movie was actually about him.

What makes the movie more impressive than it would have been is the performances by Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones. These two have great chemistry together onscreen and it is a fascinating relationship to watch. Just think, this movie was filmed out of order, so Redmayne had to keep track of how to use his body for certain scenes, depending on how far along the disease has gotten. He definitely deserves the Best Actor award for his performance in this movie. Jones is an even match for him, with her strengths showing at times of hardships when she literally seems to be staring problems right in the eye and not backing off. It’s a strong, but quiet performance.

Simply put, The Theory of Everything is a vessel for the best performance of the year. Redmayne simply kills it as Stephen Hawking and it is literally impossible to keep yourself from admiring his talent. Other than him and Felicity Jones, this is a pretty average biopic that follows a pretty rote formula. It’s certainly isn’t a bad movie, in fact it’s a pretty darn good movie, but it really wouldn’t be anything special if it wasn’t for it’s two main actors. That’s a pretty rough thing to say about a movie that’s getting so much buzz, but that’s simply how it is. See it solely for the performances because everything else is simply just ok.

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One Response to “The Theory of Everything – Review”

  1. Dan O. January 18, 2015 at 5:09 pm #

    Felt too conventional to me, for it to fully work. Redmayne and Jones were good, but they deserved so much more. Good review.

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