THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING (2014)
(directed by James Marsh)
**** (out of 5)
> This story about the great pop cosmologist Stephen Hawking is more romance than biopic, and because the relationship it chronicles was a complex one, this is a deftly nuanced romance. Taken from a book written by Hawking’s first wife Jane, chronicling their time together, director James Marsh has fashioned a very fine film that resonated beautifully on a human scale.
. As Jane, Felicity Jones (THE INVISIBLE WOMAN) was just excellent in every scene, and her Oscar nom was well deserved. But it’s clearly Eddie Redmayne’s film, and in it, he gives the performance of the year, playing the celebrated visionary from 1963 and his early college days, where he falls in love and marries Jane, through his devastating diagnosis and beyond, to the birth of three children, as he gradually succumbs to the unspeakably debilitating effects of Lou Gehrig’s Disease, the dissolution of the first of three marriages, the publication of the groundbreaking “A Brief History of Time”- and right up to May of 2014, when the two reunite for an audience with the Queen of England. This brilliant young actor (so great in LES MISERABLES!) delivers an absolutely riveting performance that just worked on every level: the brilliant genius, the lovestruck youth, the suffering patient, the private man. What Mr. Redmayne does here goes far beyond impersonation- he inhabits the well known figure to such a degree that we almost forget we’re watching an actor playing Stephen Hawking, and not just watching the man himself.
. Stellar production values abound, the settings and costuming are pitch-perfect, the score lush and delicious. The early courtship scenes are giddily dazzling. Yes, it’s a sad story on the surface, and yet, at the same time, an uplifting, inspirational film about overcoming daunting odds with grace and a considerable dose of humor- an homage to the indomitable nature of the human spirit. The ending was weak, but this is often an issue with biographies that are forced to wrestle chaotic events into a story arch, compartmentalizing a human life into discrete chapters that real life does not usually provide. Every ingredient is here to make a great human drama, which is exactly what we get: confident, assured filmmaking with superb acting all around.
. Yes, THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING is easily one of the finest English-language films of the year and Eddie Redmayne is a rising star, likely to dazzle us again in the future. His is a career I am looking forward to.
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