Friday, December 5, 2014

Movie Review: "The Theory of Everything" (2014)

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Movie"The Theory of Everything"
Director: James Marsh
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 3 minutes

While working on his doctorate degree at Cambridge University, Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne), an active young man and science major, meets a young arts major named Jane (Felicity Jones). The two grow closer together, despite having many differences. After a nasty fall, Stephen is taken to the hospital and it is discovered that he has a motor neuron disease called ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease. His life expectancy is 2 years. Even knowing the risks and facing the possibility that Stephen might die sooner rather than later, Jane and Stephen fall in love and get married. Despite his rapid physical deterioration and eventual loss of speech, Stephen continues his scientific work and research while Jane cares for him and their 3 children, though outside influences begin to put a strain on their decades-long relationship.

Though we are not typically fans of biopics or biographies that are about a subject who is still very much alive, "The Theory of Everything" does Stephen Hawking a great justice. If it had been a bad movie, well, then it would have been super awkward come release day. Lucky for the filmmakers, their gamble paid off handsomely in the form of a brilliant movie.

A lot of us know who Stephen Hawking is because he is a world-renowned scientist, as well as a public figure, but most of us don't know about Stephen Hawking, the man behind the mind. Before this film, we had no idea he was married or that he has multiple children. All we knew prior to this movie was that he is a genius scientist with ALS. While simultaneously telling his scientific story and exposing very intimate details of his personal life and relationship with his first wife Jane, this film is quite outstanding, mostly because of the superb acting job was done by Eddie Redmayne. Transformative is an understatement here, and we feel like we have been using that word quite a bit this year in movies. Redmayne was able to capture the very essence of Stephen Hawking, both pre and post diagnosis. There were at least two points in the movie where I thought Hawking was actually on screen playing a cameo role, that's how convincing Redmayne was. With intricate details such as hand and foot placement, speech style, signs of his slow deterioration and his overall look, Eddie Redmayne delivers his best performance to date and we will be extremely surprised if his portrayal of Hawking doesn't garner at least a little award attention. Though some might call this movie "Oscar bait," and we admit, it is a little, the difference with this film is that it actually manages to grip its audiences and move them, at least us, to tears a couple of times.

Though the story itself is rather generic, about one man and his life and marriage, the level of connection between not only Jane and Stephen but the entire movie to its audiences, is remarkable. We come to empathize with both Stephen and Jane, together and separately. Stephen, a man with an incredible mind, because of his illness, could have been trapped inside a shell of a body with no way to express his beliefs and scientific discoveries to the world. Thank god for technology. Though we feel bad for him because of his illness and the plight he comes to endure, we sympathize more so with Jane, who stood by him in his darkest days with an incredible about of resilience and strength. She put her life on hold for Stephen and for their love, and we saw that in the performance of Felicity Jones, who does a fantastic job in her role, though her performance is slightly eclipsed by that of Redmayne. Jones and Redmayne have extreme amounts of chemistry, and without that believable bond, the film would not have worked at all. It was not all good chemistry, either, as Stephen and Jane often clashed throughout their relationship, mostly about the fact that he was a very outspoken atheist and she was a Christian. Audiences are allowed to get invested in their relationship, the good and the bad because their chemistry is so believable. Their portrayals together paint a picture of what it's like not only to deal with a debilitating disease such as ALS but to be a caretaker for someone with a disability such as ALS as well.

There were a couple other things we enjoyed about the film as well. The camera work used throughout the film is neither consistent nor steady but in the best way possible. From long shots to sepia tones and home movie-style footage, this film is all over the map with its cinematography. We loved the way the camera would go from a long hallway shot of Redmayne to an extreme close-up during a face-to-face conversation between Hawking and his doctor. The direction, done by James Marsh, was really spectacular and because of his directing skills, this allowed us to be engaged with the story, to laugh at Stephen's quick wit (even now), and to be captivated by both Stephen and Jane as people and as a couple. All this being said, the film does seem a little bit long, but this is understandable since filmmakers are essentially cramming 50 years worth of someone's life into a 2 hour run time.

Though Hawking never overcomes his disease, in reality, he truly has managed to "defy every expectation, both scientific and personal." A well-done movie for not just science lovers.

My Rating: 8.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 8.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 83%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!
One year ago, we were watching: "The Goodbye Girl"

1 comment:

  1. Good review Lolo. Nice to see Redmayne and Jones do well in these performances, but the movie backing them up just isn't all that great.