This Oscar Season’s Biopic Darling – The Theory of Everything (2014)

You know you’ve always been curious about Stephen Hawking’s love life.  So this is about the renowned genius Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne), before and after he became affected by Lou Gehrig’s Disease.  It mostly focuses on the romance he shared with his wife, Jane (Felicity Jones).  This is a movie that you watch for the performances, and this is the role that Redmayne was born to play; his and Hawking’s facial structures are uncannily similar, and this is the part I’m sure he’s been waiting a lifetime to play.

eddiestephen11See what I’m talking about?

This is the sentimental Oscar select film, and if that is your thing, you should be prepared for a tearjerker.  It’s one thing to watch this man’s body degrade rapidly at a very young age, but then it is another thing entirely to see his romantic relationship start to falter with his wife.  It’s really hard to blame her for feeling the way that she does; when Stephen’s original prognosis came in, he was told that he had two years to live.  Who could have guessed he still had another 50 years in the tank?  You can completely understand why she has conflicting feelings, because she hardly signed up for this.  Jones does a good job of portraying this character at odds with her situation, but it is really Redmayne that you walk away talking about.  It is such a physical performance, and it had to have been a challenging one as far as his process goes.  He puts in great work, and he deserves all of the award talk that he’s getting, even though his dialect can be difficult to understand at times, as somewhat expected.  He’s an awkward guy, and he’s smart without even trying, which Redmayne is able to truly capture on film.

theoryAnd he manages to throttle that line without breaking the Tropic Thunder rule to acting.

This is a well-made film, with a fabulous score to match.  However, I did have a few issues here.  Being that this is based on true events, you already know the ending.  It’s a similar sensation to knowing the punchline to a joke, so a lot of the potential tension is undercut.  Next, the make-up on Redmayne is staggeringly effective as he ages, and while that is spectacular, the make-up on Jones is almost non-existent, and she does not appear to get any older next to this man.  If you’ve ever seen J. Edgar, it’s a similar outcome in that the entire make-up budget went to Leonardo DiCaprio, and everybody else around him suffered.  It’s sentimental almost to the point of being schmaltzy, but between the acting and the production values the good does end up out weighing the bad.

The Theory of Everything (2014) ***1/2

– Critic for Hire

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