Tuesday, November 25, 2014

[Review] The Theory of Everything

Based on Jane Hawking's memoir Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, this biopic details Jane's marriage with renowned astrophysicist Stephen Hawking.

Jane (Felicity Jones) and Stephen (Eddie Redmayne) meet at an Cambridge campus party as the stars align. A relationship quickly develops, while Hawking impresses his professors with his theories and demonstrates his obsession with time and space. One day, he takes a nasty fall and hits his head directly on the concrete in a scene that's as uncomfortable to listen to as it is to see. He's then diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease and his motor skills begin to deteriorate. Jane stays by his side, and what follows is a moving testament of will and perseverance on both parts, even in the face of scientific probability.

Science obviously plays a part in the film and attaches to some of the themes, but the script isn't bogged down with brainy exposition and lectures (for the most part). At the central base, is more of a concentration on Jane and Stephen's tumultuous relationship. The poignant story is lifted by the powerful musical score and picturesque cinematography. And there's also some gentle humor to round things out.

The performances here are spectacular with two true leads, and they're certain to join the Oscar race. Eddie Redmayne is nuanced and transformative in a turn that pretty much reaches perfection, if you can call it that. Most of it is through subtle gestures, ticks and facial movements. There comes a moment where it actually seems like Stephen Hawking is in his own biopic. Felicity Jones illuminates from the beginning, and is equally impressive in different ways as she wields the emotional heft.

The Theory of Everything is a biopic of prestige. There's a succinct flow and the film doesn't suffer from the common pitfalls that make a lot of other biopics forgettable. This isn't a one dimensional experience, and it isn't strictly a vehicle for performances--it's driven by everything.


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