Friday, 29 May 2015

The Theory of Everything

Ah, the Oscars. Every year, a handful of films come out purely to scoop a few of those lovely awards whilst evoking a few tears from viewers with their moving stories. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes the Academy recognise some true timeless gold. This year brought us Whiplash and The Grand Budapest Hotel, and recent years have brought us modern classics such as Her and Midnight in Paris. But for each of these, films like The King’s Speech, Slumdog Millionaire and 12 Years A Slave get showered with awards. And, after having gone home with a little gold fella or two, these films have been more-or-less completely forgotten. It’s sad, but that’s the way of the Oscars. Even though this year brought us Birdman, the most unpredictable but deserving Best Picture winner in years, 2015’s ceremony also recognised a lot of generic and cliché-filled films. The Theory of Everything is just that. But hey, it’s not a bad film. Just nothing we haven’t seen before. 

Out now on Blu-ray and DVD, The Theory of Everything is a biographical piece about Stephen Hawking’s relationship with his love Jane. The film covers a big portion of their lives together, from their first encounter at Cambridge University in the early 1960s, throughout their marriage and child-raising, up to Hawking being honoured by the Queen in 1989. 

The best thing about this film, by far, is Eddie Redmayne’s performance. He is phenomenal. After Hawking is diagnosed with motor neurone disease in the film, Redmayne does a fantastic job of portraying the gradual deterioration the disease causes. With each passing scene, his posture becomes more hunched, his voice becomes more slurred, and it’s difficult to watch. Nobody should have to go through this horrible disease. There was some unusual arguments surrounding the casting of Redmayne, in which many believed a disabled actor should’ve portrayed Hawking in his later years. But for me, that wouldn’t have worked. We need to see him healthy at the beginning and witness his deterioration for a stronger emotional impact. Redmayne thoroughly deserved the Oscar for this performance, especially as he said the film was shot out of order and he had to track Hawking’s deterioration and portray each stage of the illness at different times! Although I would’ve also liked to have seen Michael Keaton pick up the big award for Birdman, that film won most of the other big awards that night so I suppose one can’t complain!

Felicity Jones also delivers a stunning performance, albeit an understated one. She suffers from something that has always been an issue in cinema – acting beside a truly tour-de-force performance, you’re always going to be overshadowed. But thankfully, Jones received several award nominations for the film too and wasn’t as ignored as many actors and actresses are in these films.

But the film suffers for two big reasons. That said, the first reason for its suffering has both positives and negatives. This reason is that the film is a love story about two people, and not the deep intellectual Hawking biopic that boffins want to see. It’s a good thing because it gives some exposure to Jane and her brave battle to stay beside Stephen and fight his disease with him. She was a very strong woman and is usually ignored – the film is even based upon her autobiography; Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen. But, because of this, the film omits Stephen’s work for the most part – sequences of his theories and discoveries are given a back seat presence and rarely touched upon. The Theory of Everything is really just a romantic drama that Stephen Hawking just happens to be part of. Great for a date night (my first experience with this film!), but maybe not the warts-and-all biopic of Stephen that many people want. I suppose there’s still time for that!

But, with all this aside, the second reason for the film’s suffering is the main one - the film’s Oscar fodder feel. As stated in the introduction, The Theory of Everything is Academy Award bait through and through. An uplifting true story about overcoming disability? The Academy love that shit almost as much as they love films about slavery, the holocaust and racial equality. As such, this is something we’ve seen endless times and will continue to see each year. Before you know it, we’ll start seeing next year’s Oscar films trickling into the cinemas and The Theory of Everything will be completely forgotten. So, in conclusion, The Theory of Everything brings absolutely nothing new to the table but boasts 2 exceptional performances and that makes it worth a look alone. Bring tissues. I didn’t, and many a-manly tear were shed.

The Theory of Everything doesn’t quite travel to infinity, but earns a solid 3/5.


Sam Love

The Theory of Everything at CeX

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