9 feb. 2015

The Theory of Everything (6/10): A conventional biopic that tries to cover too much

“Your glasses are always dirty.”

I have to admit I was a bit disappointed with James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything as I found the love story a bit bland and the biopic in general very conventional and safe. It is well produced and banks on a strong lead performance from Eddie Redmayne, but there is not really much else to the story. Marsh focuses on Hawking’s relationship with his wife and the battle they faced together with his illness, but there is not much more to it and by the end I didn’t feel I had learned anything new about this brilliant man. Marsh has made some interesting documentaries in the past (Project Nim and the far superior Man on Wire), and in a way this film seemed liked one covering one fact after another, but it lacked personality. I never believed the romance at the beginning of the movie; it was all rushed. The film’s greatest flaw is that it tries to cover too long a period in Hawking’s life. It goes from one memorable event in his life to the next without digging under the surface of who this brilliant man really was. I never felt connected with these characters despite their inspirational story. I wasn’t moved by scenes or events in Hawking’s life that should’ve moved me and I think it’s because Marsh was focused on trying to cover all the important moments in his life. The greatest thing about this film is Redmayne’s strong performance who deserves the recognition he has received, but I don’t think there is anything else to it.

I’m still surprised that Anthony McCarten’s adapted screenplay was nominated for the Academy Awards, because I found everything about it very conventional. The screenplay was adapted from Jane Hawking’s autobiographical book, so the film focuses more on their relationship than on Stephen’s accomplishments (although we still get a scene where he receives a standing ovation from his scholars). We are told the story through Jane’s point of view and despite loving this man very much she gets weary of him through the years since he doesn’t accept help from anyone else. Some of my personal conclusions from this film are that his family isn’t portrayed too well (they don’t seem to do anything to help Stephen through his illness) and Stephen himself never seems to be grateful for what Jane is doing for him. Perhaps two reasons why the marriage didn’t work out in the end.

If there is one reason why I would recommend this film to anyone it’s for Eddie Redmayne’s performance alone. It is impressive how well he manages to portray Stephen’s mannerisms, his facial expressions, and his movements. It is a physically demanding performance and Redmayne actually makes you believe he is battling through ALS. It may not be my favorite performance of the year (probably because I wanted to like this character more and get to know who he really was), but it is an incredible one nonetheless. Redmayne will forever be remembered for his role here. Felicity Jones has also received a lot of praise for her performance as Jane. It isn’t nearly as showy as Redmayne’s performance was, but she delivers a strong role. She is a talented actress, but I think she has been better in other films and is being a bit overhyped for her performance here. The rest of the cast only appear as characters in a series of events with very little personality so there wasn’t much Harry Lloyd, David Thewlis, Emily Watson, or Simon McBurney could bring to the film. Redmayne overpowers everyone here and this becomes his movie. He is the only reason why I am recommending this movie which to be honest I found quite boring otherwise. 

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