Movie Review: The Theory of Everything

Theory of Everything onesheet

Nutshell: I’d give Theory an A.  Solid acting with riveting performances, beautiful cinematography and a story about one man’s real life triumph over adversity…and the universe.  What’s not to like?

Went to the DC premiere.  Saw the screening.  Loved the movie.  Wanna know why?  Here goes.  The Theory of Everything is a damn-near perfect biopic, with viewpoints from more than just the main draw, gorgeous shots (even when the story gets dark), and a “warts and all” look that is as refreshing as it is intriguing.

Theory looks at theoretical physicist/cosmologist/author Stephen Hawking’s life from the start of his student years at Cambridge, through the publication of his seminal work, A Brief History of Time, in 1988.  Not too shabby for a man given only 2 years to live back in the early 60s.  The film shows how Stephen (played by Eddie Redmayne) reacts to, and then (mentally) overcomes his diagnosis, and as his tenure as a professor at Cambridge begins, the main viewpoint shifts from Stephen to his wife, Jane (Felicity Jones), the woman who was with him from his years as a student to the publication of his first widely-known book.  As this film is based on Jane’s memoir Travelling to Infinity – My Life with Stephen, that kinda makes sense.  And kudos to screenwriter Anthony McCarten for taking a memoir and turning it into such a compelling story.  But even with the focus on Stephen and Jane, this film is more than a love story; it’s a look at how relationships grow and change over time, and of course it shows a man overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles in order to succeed, and live life to it’s fullest.

The look of the film harkens back to A Beautiful Mind, with it’s lovely shots of campuses and classrooms made important by the people that inhabit them.  In Theory, it’s Cambridge University, with it’s crew teams and historic buildings; think Georgetown University, but more posh.  But with all the smart feels these glorious buildings throw at you while you watch, this is no physics lecture.  If you’re looking for in-depth discussion of the science and math behind Hawking’s discoveries, you won’t find it here; while there is scientific discussion in Theory, the filmmakers focused on the flow of ideas rather than the hard work behind them.  That makes for a better flow with the story, and leaves behind what I’m sure would be scene after scene of Redmayne’s Hawking pouring over notes, facts and figures.  A few thinking scenes are necessary and breathe truth into the film.  More than what’s onscreen would feel like padding.  And if there’s one thing Hawking’s captivating life story doesn’t need, it’s padding.

Redmayne and Jones are positively captivating in their roles; I’ve gotta say that Redmayne is an exceedingly good looking, healthy, and vivacious man, and yet he’s able to thoroughly inhabit the role of Hawking, from hopeful youth to health-compromised elder statesman of science.  Redmayne has said he’s interviewed people with ALS, and has met with Hawking himself, and that obvious dedication pays off here.  He’s sure to be tapped multiple times come the Awards Season Onslaught, and Jones as wife Jane goes toe-to-toe excellently. (Perhaps that’s because they’ve worked together before; they have an easygoing onscreen chemistry that goes far towards letting viewers read between the lines on Stephen and Jane’s relationship.  Especially well done in scenes where Redmayne’s Hawking can no longer speak.)

If you’ve read this far in the review, you probably are already chomping at the bit to head to the theater and see this film.  So I can only give you this; you won’t be disappointed.  The Theory of Everything is the film to see this awards season.

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