365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About

20Nov/140

The Theory of Everything (2014)

The best part of James Marsh's (Man on a Wire, Shadow Dancer) Stephen Hawking biopic The Theory of Everything is the wonderful performances of Eddie Redmayne (My Week With Marilyn, Les Miserables) and Felicity Jones (The Invisible Woman, Like Crazy). Both performers have been on the scene for quite some time, but this is the movie that is definitely going to open some doors for years to come. Redmayne is a shoo-in for Best Actor and, based on what I've seen so far, he's the leader to win. I do believe that his lead will be short-lived though. I plan on seeing Foxcatcher this weekend and it is my belief that Steve Carell is going to give the performance of his career and be the clear cut favorite heading into awards season. However, I don't think I've been more disappointed in any other year than I have been with the movies of 2014. I feel as if nothing, thus far, has exceeded expectations and that only a few films (Nightcrawler, Kill the Messenger) have even met expectations. There have been a couple of movies (most notably The Lunchbox and The Drop) that had little fanfare surrounding them beforehand and ended up being pleasant surprises. But for the most part, 2014 has been a massive letdown. This year still has potential, but with each passing week and with each average movie, that hope is slowly, but surely dwindling. So it might seem like I wasn't overly impressed or was even disappointed with The Theory of Everything. However, that's not necessarily true. It was a good movie and one that I recommend seeing.

The movie tells the story of Stephen Hawking (Redmayne) starting with his days at Cambridge University when he was first diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). Best known for his novel A "Brief History of Time", Hawking explored broad topics like How did the universe begin? What made it the start of the universe possible? Does time  always flow forward? Is the universe unending? Are there other dimensions in space? What will happen when it all ends? The New York Times #1 best seller wasn't published until 1988, close to 25 years after Hawking began researching these issues. We meet Hawking as a carefree and funny procrastinator who compensates for his sub-par work ethic with his amazing brain. He's an awkward young man and he knows it, but it is an endearing characteristic. He his adored by his friends and family. He has a penchant for beautiful women and is smitten by Jane (Jones) just before his diagnosis. This movie, while it does have some technical geek speak, is a relationship movie more than anything. This is by no means a sob story. I never felt overly emotional one way or the other because there are far more ups in this movie than there are downs. This movie is about determination and overcoming difficult circumstances. Sure it is difficult watching Hawking first lose his ability to walk and then lose his ability to speak. But I think most of us knew that going. And most of us know that, despite his circumstances, Hawking's life is a triumph. This story is his story, Jane's story, and their story. This story is about falling in love, falling out of love, and salvaging a loving relationship. And while the story may not have played out exactly the way in wish we would have liked, it remained true to its roots. All of us are dealt with circumstances in our lives that we are ill-prepared for. Some of these things knock us down and never let us back up while others allow us to step back, reevaluate, and tackle life differently. Had he not been stricken with ALS, who knows how life with Jane might have been. Jane is as much of this story as Stephen is. While he was the one who was going through this debilitating illness, it was her who was the caretaker. Having witnessed a similar situation firsthand in my own family, I'm not sure which situation is more difficult. Is it worse to be the person going through a life where, physically, each new day is worse than the previous? Or is it worse being the person who loves that person the most who must witness and deal with all of this firsthand. There obviously is no right or wrong answer here. There really is no answer at all. It's just the unpredictability we call life. Redmayne and Jones did such wonderful jobs conveying these emotions and the day to day struggles that each of them endured.

Hawking was given just two years to live at his initial diagnosis and we all know that he is still alive some 50 years later. But he did what most of us would probably do when first given sure dire news. He went into a deep depression. Now it's almost impossible to convey how long and how dark that depression was given the fact that a 25 year story needed to be told over the period of two hours. But what is made obvious is that Jane's commitment to the man she loved was enough to shed some light on his situation and get him moving in the right direction. One of the things that she said was something to the effect of "Whatever time we have together is worth it for me." And just like with any two people, the relationship changed over the years.

A pleasant surprise in this movie was Jonathan Jones (Charlie Cox - television's Daredevil, television's Boardwalk Empire). A widower himself, Jonathan meets Jane when it is suggested she join a church choir, simply to have something to do as a recreational activity and a break from caring for Stephen. Quickly Jonathan and Jane strike up a friendship. Jane was very religious growing up and this is an important part of her being, even if it is not for Stephen. As an audience, we are hesitant to like Jonathan. Jonathan is a good looking, able-bodied person and we just suspect he will prove to be the antagonist of the story. There is an instant,  unspoken attraction between Jonathan and Jane. And as much as we want to dislike Jonathan, we can't help but like him. He keeps his feelings to himself and goes out of his way to help the Hawking family. And while we believe it is so he can be close to Jane, we quickly learn that he wants to help  because he has no commitments and wants to make his free time more worthwhile so that he can feel better about himself. Soon he becomes a person that the Hawkings need in there everyday life. And we all know how smart Stephen is. He's smart enough to put two and two together. The dynamics between the three adults is unique and it an integral part of the movie. Again, I find it interesting because had Stephen not become ill, Jane and Jonathan would probably never have met. It leads into the idea of survival of the fittest. It forces to evaluate our own relationships. What if we get sick and cannot care for our partner in the way he/she needs to be cared for? Will that person look for comfort in others? What would we do in a similar situation? As strong as the relationship between Stephen and Jane is, we can see small cracks forming along the way. It makes you both sad and happy to see how this aspect of the story resolved itself. I will say that Jones is worthy of a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award. He did such a great job as being a likable guy that you just wanted to hate.

Ultimately, I think this movie will be remembered for its acting more than its story. Will it be nominated for Best Picture? I think it probably will be based on the new voting format. If only five movies could have been nominated for Best Picture, I don't this would have been a finalist. However, with ten potential nominations, I think this gets a nod. I absolutely think Redmayne should be nominated for Best Actor. If this isn't one of the five best lead acting performances, I don't know what is. I know people have talked about Michael Keaton's performance in Birdman as being the leading candidate. That performance was above average, but it had nothing on Redmayne's portrayal of Hawking. I thought that his performance was flawless. He nailed the mannerisms perfectly. I thought his performance was stunning early on and got even better when Stephen lost the ability to communicate verbally. Likewise, Jones should be nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award. Her reactions to all of Stephen's setbacks were honest and believing and I loved the way that she tried to stay true to Stephen while also staying true to herself. Something had to give along the way and I think Jones's portrayal of Jane divides the audience which is what it was designed to do. And Cox was perfectly cast as Jonathan and is worthy of a nomination.

I thought the score for this movie was awesome as well. This and Interstellar (the last two movies that I've seen) have had my two favorite scores of 2014. I think each is deserving an Academy Award nomination.

I recommend this movie for all to see. It was very good. The performances are worth the price of admission alone.

Plot 9/10
Character Development 9/10
Character Chemistry 10/10
Acting 10/10
Screenplay 9/10
Directing 9/10
Cinematography 8.5/10
Sound 10/10
Hook and Reel 9.5/10 (slow building, but never boring...a little long, but you wouldn't want it to be any shorter)
Universal Relevance 9/10
93%

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