Friday, December 12, 2014

The Theory of Everything Review

As I said in my review of Creation, it seems that Hollywood is capable of giving any event a romantic spin. The relationship between Charles Darwin and his wife in Creation took center stage and was less about the development of the theory of evolution. The Theory of Everything (2014) is similar; we see the relationship between Stephen Hawking and his wife Jane and the life they had together. I thought it was odd to have a biographical romantic drama about a person who is still alive, but The Theory of Everything proved to be a darn good movie.
As a healthy, active young man, Cambridge astrophysicist student Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) was a brilliant student. While at a school dance he meets Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones) and the two form a deep love for one another. Stephen begins having some difficulty with fine motor movements, and after a terrible fall received an earth-shattering diagnosis at the age of twenty one. He has Lou Gehrig's Disease, a degenerative motor neuron disease that is incurable, he is expected to live for only more two years. Stephen embarks on his most ambition scientific work, studying the very thing he now has precious little of - time. Together, Stephen and Jane defy impossible odds, breaking new grounds in medicine and science, and achieve more than they could ever have dreamed.
The Theory of Everything is part biopic and part love story. There are some cute moments between the two main characters, but few that truly tugged at my heartstrings. I liked the relationship between Stephen and Jane. Stephen flirts like a stereotyped scientist; awkwardly. His flirtatious lines usually involve explaining in scientific terms why some things in the world look beautiful. Jane is a pretty church mouse who is studying arts at Cambridge. It's very much the same character set up as it was in Creation. Two very different people get married and have struggles and are occasionally conflicted about theology, yet they both love one another. Most of the conflict is in the mounting stress and Jane feeling overwhelmed  as Stephen's body slowly deteriorates. It's encouraging to see a relationship like theirs last over the decades.
Jane and Stephen Hawkings' wedding
photo recreated for the movie
The actors were outstanding, Redmayne in particular. He's played handsome young men in other movies such as My Week with Marilyn and Les Misérables. Playing the renowned physicist was very different. Here he played a an awkward young man losing his ability to control his muscles. His portrayal of the disease was depicted with uncanny accuracy. To be frank, it is uncomfortable seeing someone with a noticeable physical handicap struggling with something. Redmayne played his character's handicap so well it was often uncomfortable to watch him on screen. And yet his depiction of Stephen Hawking was so compelling and interesting that I cared about him and wanted to help out the character on the screen. He's simply incredible.
The sets were also very impressive. The story spans a number of decades. While we see the characters age with the magic of makeup, the passing of the years is most prominently depicted in the sets and costumes. The story starts out in the early 1960's and ends roughly in the late-1990's. The hair styles and clothing fashions change and evolve over the years. The buildings and interior decoration slowly takes on a more contemporary look as time in the movie passes. The changes are so gradual and subtle you hardly notice them, yet the sets are so detailed they are hard to ignore. The camera captures the actors and the background in such beautiful detail that every shot looks gorgeous, and every scene like a perfectly captivated moment from the past.
The Theory of Everything is a good movie. While science plays a role in the movie, you won't leave knowing any more about general relativity or quantum gravity than you did going in. What Hawking developed was less important in this story than how it was developed. The story remains just interesting and inspiring enough to hold my attention to the end, but it still feels a lavishly produced period drama that was probably produced for the sole purpose of earning nominations for Academy Awards. Basically, it's Oscar bait. The story is not bad, though does little outside Jane and Stephen's relationship. The acting is phenomenal, especially Redmayne. Even if romantic biopics aren't the kind of movie you enjoy, seeing The Theory of Everything is worth it just to see Redmayne's acting. There is very little that can be said negatively about this movie, the only reason not to see it is if this particular genre doesn't appeal to you. I think it's worth seeing, but you're probably safe waiting for it on DVD.

The real Stephen Hawking is still around and was able to see this movie. He said the following about it:

"Watching the The Theory of Everything Movie at the London premiere last night was an intense emotional experience for me. It is perhaps the closest I will come to time travel. Based on Jane's book, it follows our life together exploring the mysteries of the universe. I enjoyed watching it with my family and friends, and I hope audiences around the world enjoy it as well."
--Stephen Hawking


  1. Good review Dustin. Nice to see Redmayne and Jones do well in these performances, but the movie backing them up just isn't all that great.

    1. Thanks, Dan!
      You're right, the movie itself just wasn't all that interesting, though the actors were nothing short of phenomenal! I would watch it again to appreciate their performances even if I have to endure the movie again.