Sunday, November 23, 2014
Unlike the science he studies, the Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything doesn't take enough chances.Physicist Stephen Hawking is perhaps the greatest and well-known living scientist, with his extraordinary life struggles serving as inspiration for the new biopic The Theory of Everything. Although it succeeds in many areas, it suffers the same fate as its brethren: vanity. In 1963, the brilliant but odd-looking Brit Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) is attending Cambridge when he meets the driven Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones). Although their love is built on Hawking devoting his life to studying Cosmology and time, Jane is an intelligent soul who dreams of studying language. At roughly the same time, Hawking begins to show symptoms of the motor-neuron disease ALS that will eventually leave him confined to a wheelchair and unable to speak. But this eventuality doesn't phase Hawking, who does nothing short of redefine his field with a theory that combines General Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. Faced with a wheelchair-bound existence, Jane hires a local choirmaster (Charlie Cox) to help Stephen's growing family, unaware that she and Jonathan are falling in love. As his health becomes more complicated and their marriage begins to falter, Jane must decide if Jonathan's desires will see her leave Stephen, who by the 1980's has become a worldwide sensation. read our review here). Redmayne gets Hawking, from his physical limitations to his relatively unknown sense of humor. By the time we're introduced to his now-familiar computer voice after a 20 year decline in his health, the two men are one in the same. Director James Marsh does bathe our characters in the glow of the 60's but does manage to throw a little dirt on them as well, humanizing Hawking as a quick-witted genius whose social skills aren't quite on par with the rest of us. If it wasn't for Redmayne's performance, I believe critics would be raving about Jones, her quiet English resolve serving as the anchor in Stephen's rather tumultuous life. As that strength becomes undermined by the appearance of Hawking's care nurse (Maxine Peake), we feel a sense of loss as great as the universe Hawking has tried to tame for the past 50 years. And yet for all the resolve Jane displays, we never seem to know more than the most cursory information about her. We do know that she seems forever to exist in Stephen's shadow and only finds peace after leaving him; and even when that moment of separation arrives, her new-found freedom doesn't make us feel any better for it. Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.