The Theory of Everything (2014)
Directed by James Marsh
As we’ve seen in biopics of the recent past (including “12 Years a Slave” and “The Iron Lady”), “The Theory of Everything” seems to struggle with the focus of its incredible true story while still showcasing Oscar-worthy performances from its leading stars. Eddie Redmayne (“Les Miserables“) is on the fast-track to superstardom playing Stephen Hawking, the theoretical physicist who was told in the 1960s that he had Lou Gehrig’s disease and would have two years to live. His remarkable performance may very well lead this year’s Best Actor pack, which also includes Michael Keaton (“Birdman”) and Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Imitation Game”). Redmayne is delightfully charming and surprisingly humorous in the role, while nailing every minor nuance of his character. As Hawking’s muscles gave out, his body entered near-paralysis. It’s not an easy role to play, but Redmayne is nearly flawless. Playing Hawking’s first wife, Jane, who struggled to assist Stephen through his disease while raising three children, is British actress Felicity Jones. She, too, is on the shortlist for an Oscar nomination. But a pair of top-notch performances doesn’t make for a perfect film.
“The Theory of Everything” loses focus by trying to be the story of everything. The film covers almost 30 years, from Stephen and Jane’s first encounter through their eventual separation. Three children are born and about a dozen medals are awarded to Stephen, but the story loses its focus somewhere along the way. Based on Jane’s 2008 memoir about her marriage to Stephen, the story tries to be about her. But then it focuses on Stephen’s disease. But then it turns to Jane’s struggle as a caretaker and wife and mother. What the film does cover is covered beautifully…but does it cover all that it should have?
Redmayne and Jones deserve the Oscar nominations they will likely receive. As for the rest of the film, it could have used some tidying up. It is a wonderful story of love and perseverance, but “The Theory of Everything” could have been even more.
“The Theory of Everything” is in theaters.