The Theory of Everything – Movie Review
The Theory of Everything – PG-13
Release Date: Wed 26 Nov 2014
The Theory of Everything is a strange missed opportunity that has very strong performances and direction that is let down by a drab, emotionless climax. Neither a biopic about Hawking, a real exploration of his life’s work or a satisfying character study of Hawking’s relationship with his first wife the movie tries to pull all three together into a storyline that is very cause-and-effect. Each scene leads into the next as if it needed to happen in that order.
Based on the book by Jane Hawking, “Theory” starts out with Stephen at school in good health racing around on bicycles and being a slacker/genius. He’s always smiling, often a flirt and a bit mischievous. This bedrock of character remains throughout the performance, and Eddie Redmayne does an excellent job of boiling Hawking down to the charming smirks and eyebrows that are as emotive as his disease allows him to be.
For an adaptation of a book by Hawking’s wife, we spend a great deal of the movie watching him in scenes she is not in. We also aren’t given much of any similar back-story on her. A snippet from a scene here or there lets us know she wants a degree in poetry. Another scene shows her trying to study while Stephen and the children make a racket in the next room. We empathize with her and understand her sacrifice to her husband’s care, but the movie doesn’t give us a good sense of her thought process. She reacts, and we’ve spent more time with Stephen and tend to understand him better for it.
There are a few clever illustrations of some of the science surrounding Hawking’s work. This also trails off when we get into the third act which sets us up for the inevitable divorce (off screen) and is followed by a patronizing highlight reel in reverse reminding us how strong the first two acts were before the epilogue text appears. Stephen is still searching for the theory of everything. Jane and Stephen are friends and have grandchildren. Never mind the legacy of Hawking’s work, the recent discoveries about the beginnings of the universe and so forth. It’s a well made, beautiful looking film with great performances. It also feels like several important, possibly embarrassing or damaging scenes were removed to maintain the reputation of the living leads.
Aaron, Cal and I saw it in the theater and had a discussion in the car: