“While there’s life, there is hope,” said Stephen Hawking.
To start talking about The Theory of Everything, it’s better to wrap the cinemas of 2014 in general: witnessing the leap of time and astrophysics in Interstellar—a sci-fi based on theories by Kip Thorne; trailing a prestige-biopic of a not-so-lucky hero Alan Turing through The Imitation Game, and sweeping all the beauty in Mr. Turner‘s paintings. What’s surprisingly being a fortunate coincidence is: all of those things were referenced in The Theory of Everything—a biopic of Stephen Hawking seen from the view of his first wife, Jane Hawking; however, one needs to thoroughly go beyond this story to understand all of them. The thing is, this glorified biopic isn’t that deep.
It’s always more beautiful and more compelling if we see this story not as a biopic of Stephen Hawking but as a story of Jane Hawking (beautifully portrayed by Felicity Jones, whose majesty and charm didn’t quite live up with the Academy’s criteria). Although Eddie Redmayne finally won the Oscar for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking and the film always revolved around his character, the odds always follow Jane. This character really builds the setup for this unusual love story from the beginning—initiating it beautifully, giving it more insight and reason, infusing sympathy to it, and keeping it sweet and warm. The good thing is, Jane, as a character (and Jones in portraying her), never attempts to steal a score; she patiently observes Stephen (therefore, this story exists) and lets his stars shine; something that The Theory of Everything might take for granted.
As a biopic, indeed, it’s flawed as it serves as a glorified portrayal of Stephen Hawking, which might be a missed focus. While The Imitation Game leads people to know who Alan Turing is and what deeds he did, this film gives a little new insight to people’s knowledge of Stephen Hawking, except a flashing period drama to dramatize his history. Stephen Hawking is depicted as a cold, sharp-minded man who always go beyond his own limitation, blessed be him, he’s always brilliant; however, he contributes for almost nothing in the relationship which becomes the basis to this story. If only the focus is even—to Stephen and Jane—or not to anyone of them but their union, the real meaning of the titular theory might be more understandable.
Despite of all the unbalance, this Oscar-nominated feature is fueled and, mostly, saved by the stellar performances of the film’s leading duet—Redmayne and Jones. The chemistry is real, Redmayne really shines with his into-character performance (that makes me forgot that he’s not Stephen Hawking), but ultimately, Jones colors everything with her humble persona. The Academy should consider having an award for Best Couple in Lead Roles to accommodate this.
VERDICT: As a biopic of Stephen Hawking, The Theory of Everything is flawed; but it shines as a reconstruction of Stephen-Jane’s relationship fueled by both Oscar-standard leading performers.
The Theory of Everything (2014)
Biography, Drama, Romance Directed by: James Marsh Written by: Anthony McCarten based on a book by Jane Hawking Starred by: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Harry Lloyd Running Time: 123 mins Rated PG-13 for some thematic elements and suggestive material