The Theory of Everything

January 18, 2015 at 12:03 pm | Posted in 2014 | 1 Comment
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I had steadfastly avoided this film when it was released. Frankly, it looked sappy and I could not imagine Hawking’s love life to warrant a film. I was not incorrect, on this front, but I had not taken into account how drawn in I would be by Eddie Redmayne’s performance. Redmayne (“My Week with Marilyn,” “Les Misérables”) wholly transformed his physicality for this role. The effort it must have taken him to walk with twisted ankles, to hold his hands as he did and use his knuckles to stand or hold himself up, to maintain his shoulders at the sharp angle Hawking does and, most of all, to manage the contorted facial expression Hawking has. When he spoke, his voice, while I have no idea if it sounded like Hawking did, was a force of acting in itself. And, once he could no longer speak, he was able to hold that facial posture while still being remarkably expressive. There is a scene where he breaks down sobbing that is just stunning; to maintain the integrity of that character on so many levels in that moment was remarkable. There were other solid performances, as well. Felicity Jones, who has done mostly bit parts before now, delivers a breakout performance (though not really Oscar-nomination worthy, frankly) as Jane Hawking. She has an expressive face and was able to capture Jane’s evolution from young, plucky and determined to older, sadder and exhausted. This is, in the end, an unrelentingly feel-good movie and feel-good movies have no bad guys. Everyone here is treated with genuine affection, their flaws touched on lightly enough that they only serve to highlight their strengths. The story itself is vaguely interesting, though I would have preferred a much deeper dive into Hawking’s stunning insights. But, again, this is not a film intended to teach you, only to move you. And I was. More than once. But not by the story, whose outlines I already knew. I was moved by a single performance. So much so that I now think he should win the Oscar. I had been leaning toward Michael Keaton for his naked vulnerability in “Birdman.” But who do you reward? The person who was courageous enough to play himself or the one who so wholly transformed into someone else?


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