THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING
By Gary Murray
Starring Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones and David Thewlis
Written by Anthony McCarten
Directed by James Marsh
Running time 123 min
MPAA Rating PG-13
Selig Film Rating Matinee
Stephen Hawking is one of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century. His theory on the nature of the universe and the big bang has been debated for the last half century. Stephen’s book A Brief History of Time was a worldwide best seller. The wheelchair bound thinker has changed the idea of the cosmos but little is known of his personal life. In the movie The Theory of Everything, we get a slightly fictionalized version of his early life.
The story starts with a young physics student Stephen Hawking working on his PhD at Cambridge. He’s a young man full of promise and a bit awkward. He cute-meets Jane (Felicity Jones), she is a literary soul with a deep belief in the Anglican Church. Soon, they are becoming an item on campus, falling in young love. We also meet the Hawking family.
As Stephen begins to struggle with some of the larger concepts of time, his body begins to fail. A series of tests later and the diagnosis is clear. The disease will take his life in the next two years.
The two decide to get married and soon there is a baby on the way. The story is of a marriage that is challenged by disease and celebrity. We see the ups and downs of the marriage, with adults being tempted by forces outside the marriage. There is also the idea of fighting the odds of survival. We also see the ascension of Stephen Hawking as the most recognized scientist of his day. By the time it is over, there is the total dissolve of the marriage.
The performance by Eddie Redmayne is one of the most brilliant jobs of acting one will see in the year. In so many ways, it reminds of John Hurt in The Elephant Man or Daniel Day Lewis in My Left Foot, a performance so lost in the character that one forgets that the actor is not handicapped. This is the kind of a role that makes an actor into a star.
Felicity Jones just charms as Jane. This film is much more her story than his and she has to show the wider range of emotions. She goes from a wide-eyed girl to a weary middle-aged woman with massive burdens and little relief. It is touching but also shows the struggles of dealing with someone who is trapped in a body that is failing.
There are some problems with the film. The film runs along at painfully slow pace, at times plodding through the material. It runs a good two hours and needs to be trimmed by a good 20 minutes. There is just not enough story presented for two hours of film.
Another problem is with the physical palate of the work. Over and over, the film has different shades of primary colors– sometimes blue, sometimes red. The effect was to suggest different tones of life but it did not work. It made the work feel as though the color correction feature was never used during the editing process.
Director James Marsh has done most of his work in the documentary field and in many ways the film feels as if it were a documentary. There are moments that feel unscripted and raw. It is just that there are too few of them. The film would have been better served by a more conventional telling of the narrative. Marsh had the actors, he just should have set-up the camera and let them go on the material. Being simple would have been a better story-telling choice.
In the end, The Theory of Everything is a mundane film with some brilliant performances. It is not as good as the sum of its parts but it is worth a look.