Oscar Special: Eddie Redmayne is amazing as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything

Mihir Fadnavis

Feb 18, 2015 13:47:53 IST

Stephen Hawking is one of the greatest minds to have existed on this planet. His brain is capable of curating more original thought than most other human beings in history. So it’s very disappointing that the movie based on such a razor sharp personality, a true genius in every sense, is so dull and pedestrian.

A lot of upsetting things are brought to light in The Theory of Everything. The film is directed by James Marsh, who made the tremendous documentaries Man on Wire and Project Nim, and the excellent British thriller Shadow Dancer. All of those films had depth, nuance and sense of belonging in their respective genres. This movie, however, is unsure of what it wants to be – it tries to be an epic, a sweeping biopic of Stephen Hawking, yet restricts itself to the bittersweet love story between Hawking and his wife Jane. Neither a biopic nor a romantic dramedy, The Theory of Everything does not belong to any genre and what it ends up to doesn’t make any lasting impression. When you’re watching a forgettable movie about someone so unforgettable, you know something is deeply wrong.

 Oscar Special: Eddie Redmayne is amazing as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything

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The Theory of Everything charts Hawking’s life between his university years in the ’60s, when he was a young and awkward campus whizkid, all the way to the late 90’s, past two different marriages. It doesn’t anything about where Hawking began: where was he born, who his parents were, how his child genius was revealed. Neither is there anything about how he came across his numerous discoveries and theories about space and time. Hawking single-handedly changed the way we look at the inner workings of the universe and the movie completely glosses over how he reached his findings.

It’s as though the filmmakers expect you to already know everything about the man. This is a conundrum. If the audience already knows about Hawking and his achievements, then they need to be shown something that they don’t already know in order to be interested. Instead, the film lazily offers what is widely-known about Hawking along with the most uninteresting slice of this genius’s life.

This film is only about the marriage and eventual divorce of Mr and Mrs Hawking. That would still have been interesting had the film portrayed the bitter truth about the fractured and obviously difficult relationship between the two. Instead the film sugarcoats everything and presents the couple as something out of a Nicholas Sparks novel.

Eddie Redmayne, who plays Hawking, is truly amazing in his role. Every single detail, right down to the tilted neck and the glint in his eyes as the broken grin, is present. Redmayne’s performance is powerful enough to permeate through screen and into you - you’ll wriggle your toes in discomfort when Hawking struggles with his paralyzed feet. Redmayne may be the most hardworking person in the film.

Felicity Jones is also lovely, but it’s difficult to feel anything for her sanitized, Hollywood-ized avatar. Jones, who was stunningly relatable in Like Crazy, is just Oscar bait in The Theory of Everthing, being paraded around to impress Academy voters.

Tragically for a film made on a man who has come up with some brilliant theories on time, The Theory of Everything feels way longer than it actually is. You sit down to watch a film about the greatest living genius on Earth and all you get is sentimental tripe. It could have been great joy to watch Hawking defy every expectation, both scientific and personal, but sadly, the film does not defy even the most basic adversary of cinema – schmaltz. The Theory of Everything feels like the poor man’s A Beautiful Mind.

If Hawking’s theories actually pan out, and reversal in the space time continuum is indeed developed sometime in the future, one hopes someone would travel back in time to fix this movie and make it something that befits Hawking’s genius.

Updated Date: Feb 18, 2015 13:53:04 IST