Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Theory of Everything

I have wanted to see The Theory of Everything for months after I first saw the trailer, and it has only been in theaters in the Salt Lake City area for a few days.  However, one critic described the movie as "An unremarkable bio-pic about a remarkable man."  So I deliberately approached the film with modest expectations, but my interest in Stephen Hawking made me hope deep down that the film would be a resounding success.  It is.  It is hard to imagine how a film like this could be made any better.

In case you don't know who Stephen Hawking is, he is a theoretical physicist whom some sources describe as the smartest person on the planet.  His theories have increased our understanding of black holes and the origins of the universe.  He is the author of the best selling book A Brief History of Time.  Unfortunately, at the age of 22 he developed motor neuron disease which has left him mostly paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair.  

Hawking was a graduate student at Cambridge where he got his doctoral degree.  While there, he met and married Jane Wilde, who initially acted as his caregiver.  As Hawking's conditioned worsened, he needed more help and got it from a volunteer named Jonathan Jones and a nurse named Elaine Mason.  This is where things get messy, because Jane became attracted to Jones and Hawking became attracted to Mason.  Eventually Jane and Stephen Hawking divorced and they both married the people they were attracted to.  The movie depicts the breakup as cordial, but in reality it was quite bitter.

Hawking's second marriage didn't work out very well, and after his second divorce he developed a working relationship with his first wife to help write the biography that this movie is based on.

The triumph of this film comes from the acting performances, all of which are outstanding.  It is also an emotionally moving story about love and adversity.  The film is so full of subtle nuances as we see Hawking's condition change and the problems with his marriage gradually develop.  The movie does not try to hit us over the head with emotion, but instead candidly presents us with the facts realistically, which for me still had great emotional impact.

If Eddie Redmaye, who plays Hawking, does not at least get nominated for the Best Actor Oscar then I will be quite disappointed.  To play Hawking in the later stages of his disease, he had to convey emotion using the subtlest of gestures.  I will also be disappointed if the movie is not nominated for Best Picture.

Rating:  * * * *

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