Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Theory of Everything

Theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking is undeniably one of the brightest minds of our time, a fact that The Theory of Everything struggles to prove while being far more interested in the man's personal life than his professional breakthroughs. The result is a strong romantic drama between Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and his wife Jane (Felicity Jones) that is far less insightful of the man's work.

Dumbing down Hawking's theories for the audience, the script by Anthony McCarten based on Jane Hawking's book spoon-feeds us extremely basic doses of Hawkings theories without ever examining the work that went into studying or proving them. Instead the ideas seem to come from nowhere, take little effort to prove, and are instantly lauded. Does that sound like the cut-throat world of academia to you?

More concerned with showcasing the effects and unique challenges presented to Stephen and Jane after his diagnosis of motor neuron disease, The Theory of Everything succeeds far better here getting the most of its stars (even if the film, intentionally or not, turns Jane into a martyr).

Redmayne is terrific here as the awkward genius whose body slowly betrays him. By the nature of the disease the actor does become harder to understand (at least until Hawking gets his first robotic voice). During the middle of the film there were several lines which I couldn't quite make out (including the only real explanation of the man's theories to his peers) desperately making me wish subtitles had been available.

Those wishing to learn more about the personal life of the scientist will get their money's worth (although the film almost completely ignores the Hawking children as anything resembling actual characters). Charlie Cox and Maxine Peake work well in the roles of the later loves of Jane and Stephen, something you might not expect for a movie that centers around the pair's relationship. Given its title the film certainly delivers less than expected, but what it does concentrate on it does well.

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