Directed by: James Marsh || Produced by: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce, Anthony McCarten
Screenplay by: Anthony McCarten || Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Charlie Cox, Emily Simon, Simon McBurney, David Thewlis, Christian McKay, Maxine Peake, Guy Oliver-Watts
Music by: Johann Johannsson || Cinematography by: Benoit Delhomme || Edited by: Jinx Godfrey || Country: United Kingdom || Language: English
Running Time: 123 minutes
Filling in the slot for this year’s annual, cute, romantic Oscar-bait drama is James Marsh’s part-biopic, part-love story, The Theory of Everything. The movie is neither as intelligent as The Imitation Game (2014) nor as entertaining as The Babadook (2014); that being said, all three feature irresistible accents to my American ears while still refraining from those tiresome subtitles of non-English-speaking productions, which repel American masses like bad rain on a Sunday. If you have a girlfriend or female-date who’s into semi-artsy things or if you just want to kick back and watch a benign, friendly, forgettable movie that will never cause your heart-rate to fluctuate even a little bit, I suggest you check out this movie. However, I want it noted that I think this movie is substantially more bait than Oscar, if you catch my style.
The Theory of Everything tells the adorkable story of Stephen Hawking’s adult life and his first marriage to fellow Cambridge University classmate, Jane Wilde. If you know anything about Hawking’s physical condition or life in general, or have seen any likeminded films that revolve around romances amidst psychological turmoil (e.g. A Beautiful Mind , Amour ), you know what to expect with this film. A comparison between this movie and Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind couldn’t be more appropriate, as the entire film is a historical romance about a famous scientific figure and his significant other’s shared struggle with the former’s physical malady. They both have numerous things the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences loves: Historical iconography, overindulgent romance, tragic physical or mental illnesses, and lots and lots and lots of dialogue.
All cynicism aside, The Theory of Everything (henceforth, TToE) is a harmless romance-biopic hybrid whose complete inability to offend or repel anyone has to be commended. It’s such an inoffensive film that it’s impressive for its narrative palatability. (Is that palatability or blandness?) The love story feels genuine due to the good chemistry between a fantastic Eddie Redmayne as Hawking and a peppy Felicity Jones as Wilde. The near-constant bright lighting and soft-focus gives the story an appropriate dream-like feel, but in a warmhearted, feelgood sort of way rather than a wacky or creepy surrealist experience a la David Lynch. At times, the film’s cinematography feels closest to Janusz Kaminski, but without its lighting being as in your face or as identifiable as that frequent Spielberg-collaborator — or as good.
Still, TToE is not a universally-appealing picture in the way that Toy Story (1995), 3 Idiots (2009), or The Dark Knight (2008) were because it is a genuinely outstanding movie that happened to be produced and distributed by a major studio. It’s not a very good film at all, just a mediocre one that doesn’t offend any single demographic or possess any explicit content, whatsoever. I might be more forgiving of this film’s bland, unambitious narrative content, its generic character drama, if at least its direction of that content was memorable at all. Again, the sole element of its cinematography I can recall after watching it is director of photography Benoit Delhomme’s inclination to overexpose everything, including nighttime scenes. Beyond that, however, TToE’s complete lack of cinematographic flair specifically, and disinterest in striking visuals more generally, are the principle reasons why it feels so boring — that, and its elongated running time for such a simple, straightforward story. The film as a whole is slow, predictable, and not memorable in any way.
This is a movie that I probably would’ve never seen had it not generated a fair bit of Oscar buzz, and now that I made the effort to see it, I almost wish it would get a Best Picture nomination, even though it doesn’t really deserve it, solely to justify my trip to the theatre. It’s not a bad movie, per se — it has some good performances, a good sense of playful humor thanks to Redmayne, and an appropriate feelgood, if slightly cheesy, ending — it’s just not that, well, special in any way, either. It is, as Douglas Adams would say, mostly harmless. It’s a mostly, or should I say, entirely harmless romantic drama.
It is also one of the least exciting films of any genre I’ve seen in years. However, if you play your cards right after seeing it, you might just get laid.
SUMMARY & RECOMMENDATION: Director James Marsh doesn’t have much to work with here in terms of unique character arcs or exciting narrative development, but he makes the movie flow with pleasant, soft-focus cinematography and a warm sense of the steady passage of time. Redmayne transforms into the famed theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking, with surprising ease, and a “climatic” surrealist sequence near the end summarizes his characterization in a semi-interesting way.
— However… there really isn’t much to this movie other than the benign love story and historical significance of its protagonist. It’s not thematically complex nor is its screenplay that emotionally resonant. The Theory of Everything can put you to sleep in both good and bad ways. It’s so pleasant it makes you want to dream happy thoughts, and it’s also so periodically dull that you may want to think no thoughts at all.
—> NOT RECOMMENDED, though like I said, it’ll work as a date-night movie in a pinch. It’s got all the saccharine hallmarks of traditional Oscar-bait without being too offensive to bored cynics like me.
? So how exactly did Hawking father his second and third child? Anybody? I believe this is an important question that needs addressing. The film emphasizes Hawking’s love-life to such an excruciating degree, sidelining every other major accomplishment of his life, but skims over that detail.