Eddie Redmayne was a super memorable part of Les Miserables, to the point where I thought to myself “That kids gonna be a star one day” as I left the theater. Well, now he’s making good on my thought, as his turn as Stephen Hawking in The Theory Of Everything is generating tons of praise, as it should. Redmayne gives a great performance, though he’s held back by a movie that’s more dull than interesting.
It doesn’t take a man with the mind of Hawking himself to figure out the movies main problem; it’s unfocused. Instead of just concentrating on a short portion of Hawking’s life (like how Lincoln only look at a brief part of Abraham Lincolns existence) and making that engaging, it tries to cover everything in his life from his college days to a 1980’s seminar. This approach to the story could have worked, if only they managed to keep the story at all focused. At the start of the motion picture, the plot is kept solely Hawking fall in love with Jane (Felicity Jones) in college, a start of a romance that the film centers around.
Again, not an atrocious idea to look at the romance between Stephen and Jane, but could it at least have the decency to be consistently engaging? Stephen’s more creepy than endearing as he seeks her out, with one early icky moment between the two starting with him surprising Jane by waiting outside of her church. Credit where credit is due though, a scene with the two at a party is sweetly executed, especially as the two dance and kiss for the first time, all in a single shot that slowly pans out.
It’s nicely done, as is early scenes with Hawking adjusting to his motor-neuron disease. The moment when his best pal discovers he’s got the disease is especially great, with the slow realization and denial conveyed by his friend feeling very true to life. Unfortunately, shortly after, the film rushes past a wedding and other events, only depicting them through home videos, and then we’re stuck in the plot point that the movie weirdly spends the most time on; will Jane cheat on Stephen?
If you ever wanted a story about Stephen Hawking to spend time focusing on romantic scenarios with all the depth of a small bowl of cheese dip, well, you and I have very different cinematic priorities. Yeah, this portion of the movie, which is where most of the story is spent, is agonizingly slow, though at least it manages to depict the films problem; it’s too scared to get into the emotions of the characters, Moments where we get to see Hawking struggle with his disease (namely, a scene at dinner where all of his friends can sue their forks with ease) are superbly done and great to watch, but they’re few and far in between.
The entire film would rather focus on a trite “possible affair” subplot that really doesn’t have any sort of resonance, despite Felicity Jones doing her best with her underwritten role. Seriously, she’s the biggest shame of the movie, since the moments where she excels are so great it just emphasizes how poorly written most of her other scenes are. She, and Stephen Hawking, deserve a stirring film that makes use of their talents, not a feature with moments of glory undercut by blandness and relentlessly dull characters. At least Redmayne is good in it, even if the film itself isn’t.