Friday, December 26, 2014

THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING (2014): A "Standard" Love Story with Captivating Performances

The Theory of Everything

What do we know about Stephen Hawking? He’s a physicist (or theoretical physicist, or astrophysicist, or cosmologist). He’s that scientist with a disease that made him sit on his sophisticated wheel chair and talk using a computer. For most people (I mean, non-“science” people) he is world famous not because of his brilliant theories about the universe, but because of his statement about us no longer needing the existence of God, now that science can explain all the “magic” used to be explained by faith and religious tenets. “The Theory of Everything” covers the life of Stephen Hawking and his wife, Jane Hawking, with the most beautiful form of acting performance I have seen this year.

The interesting point that we don’t realize well is, we know who Stephen Hawking is, but we don’t really know who he exactly is. I always think that the life of scientists, inventors, famous people with great minds, will make for a great biopic; half of the reason of this statement is that I like science and I have good interests in science. The other half is because even though we know they’re famous, we don’t exactly know what make them famous. We rarely give a damn about their field, about what they have done that make them distinguished from their colleagues. We prefer to get to know about what make them them, what motivates them, the people behind their success, or their love story. We prefer something so much digestible, something that—in my words—makes this exceptional life story mainstream and plain.

The Theory of Everything

This year we welcome an interesting film about Stephen Hawking, “The Theory of Everything”, directed by James Marsh. Basically it is not a pure biopic, because it’s not only about Hawking himself; it’s more about the relationship of Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and his wife, Jane (Felicity Jones). (And all I wrote in previous paragraph happens again, we are drifted away with an instant drama and we forget to sneak into a deeper side of Hawking’s brilliant brain). It’s about the early years of Hawking getting diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, a disease that gradually paralyzes him over years, until he becomes an eminent physicist in the world with the great support of his loving wife Jane.

While I tried to convince myself that I will not get super amused by the “science” side of “The Theory of Everything”, I shift my focus from not only Hawking himself, but also Jane. This is a story of two people, and we cannot expect that the portion of one of them dominates the portion of the other. We expect balance. We expect a story that sufficiently wraps the brilliant mind of Hawking, the pure love of Jane, and the connection between the two. Stephen Hawking is a genius who happens to get a disease, and he needs a loving wife to take care of him. She does feel suffering in the life of their marriage, but eventually they make it through. That’s like the basic cues about what we will see in this film. So predictable, but still potentially heart-melting and inspirational, with the help of good story and exceptional acting performance.

The Theory of Everything

“The Theory of Everything” does them all, unfortunately, in the minimum amount. Talking about the story, everything feels standard. Like I said: instant drama. It’s a story so simple it fails to get maximized by larger, subtler topics. It can’t manage to handle more layers. It’s clearly seen when Jonathan (Charlie Cox) entered the stage. However loving and caring Jane is, she is just an average wife with the need of emotional support—which her husband can’t fully provide. So here comes Jonathan, a local priest whose wife has just passed away. He meets Jane in the church choir, and while he said that he purely wants to support Hawking, Jane, and their babies, it’s unavoidable that Jane may have a crush on him. This is where the film gets limp. I think “The Theory of Everything” can’t really lit this dilemmatic situation, because it’s hard to feel and blend with the character’s feeling. That’s because it’s not implied and supported by the script.

However, with the “standard” story, “The Theory of Everything” gets escalated, thanks to the wonderful performance by the two leading actors. Eddie Redmayne has just delivered an incredible, incredible, incredible (!) performance that may burst audience into tears. He has transformed to be Stephen Hawking even before he is ill; that’s when he starts taking my attention. Well, it’s easy to get viewers’ sympathy by portraying a diseased character, but to portray a young, healthy Hawking with his distinct gestures and mimics... wow, I was totally hypnotized. At the same time, Felicity Jones did just the same quality of acting. Jane comes with no specific characterization, but her presence is solidly important compared to Hawking himself. Jones manages to play with emotion in subtler level, showing a suffering but caring wife. She knows Jane should not be a saint; she’s just a humane woman trying to give more than to receive, to help more than to get support.

The Theory of Everything

Until now I root Eddie Redmayne to win at least a Golden Globe for his excellent transformation of the world’s sensational physicist to date (Jones, umm, I prefer Julianne Moore). Jones and Redmayne are locked for a nod in Oscar, but finger-cross for them to win. They have delivered a tour-de-force, a captivating performance that represents a striking fragment of life into the most sincere form. “The Theory of Everything”, by story, is so forgettable, but the performance is surely for a lifetime.


The Theory of Everything3.5 out of 5 stars

THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
2014 / Biography, Drama, Romance / 123 min / PG-13

cast: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox,
David Thewlis, Emily Watson, et al.

based on the book "Travelling to Infinity:
My Life with Stephen" by Jane Hawking,
screenplay by Anthony McCarten

directed by James Marsh

3 comments:

  1. The Theory Of Everything provides both insight and comfort. There are many ways to make a relationship work.

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  2. This film truly had me question my perspective of people and their situations. I love this film, and the score and photography certainly were beautiful to take in. I went to the movies and saw this; and when I came out, within seconds I opened up Amazon to pre-order this.

    I will certainly not regret my decision.

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