Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Theory of Everything

            The story of the physicist Stephen Hawking has "Oscar" written all over it. Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones are both wonderful as Professor Hawking and his first love, Jane. The screenplay focuses solely on their relationship and "sells" the film as a remarkable love story.

             When they first meet in college, Hawking shows no signs of the the disease that will end up crippling him for life. He is a brilliant student with a sharp wit and Jane falls rather easily in love. When he is diagnosed with ALS, Jane's love is so strong, she stands by her man, marries him and promises to fight the disease together. 

              While the love story is touching and very emotional, the film itself is very episodic and doesn't go into great detail about Hawking's medical condition or his work. The fact that when he is first diagnosed in his twenties, given two years to live, and yet is still with us in his seventies is remarkable. The film would have you believe it is Jane's love alone that keeps him alive. There is no mention of anything medical except for a hospital stay when he develops pneumonia. 

              Mr. Redmayne physical transformation as Hawking's body continues to fail him is amazing. He captures every nuance in the loss of his limbs and speech and yet still conveys the brilliance and wit of the man trapped in a deteriorating body. It's a performance so good, it hides the deficiencies in the screenplay. After such an emotional story, the turn of events in the last act are a betrayal to the audience as well as to the characters. Unfortunately its a true story so the events are real but we can only speculate on the reasons behind them. A coda at the end softens the blow but for film about "everything", too much was left out.

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