Do a Shot: for each uplifting moment
Take a Drink: during each montage
Take a Drink: for each awkward conversation
Do a Shot: for each heartbreaking scene
By: Matt Conway (Two Beers) –
With Oscar season continuing to get more and more popular, studios are continuing to find ways to short cut their way to Oscar gold. One of the go-to ways to win Oscars are biopics. While there are only a few that end up winning Best Picture (last year’s 12 Years a Slave and The Kings Speech being the most recent), a lot of these biopics have been earning a great deal of attention for the actors involved. Recent winners such as Meryl Streep, Daniel Day-Lewis, and Matthew McConaughey have all earned gold for their portrayals of people in biopics.
Some of these films have found a great deal of success, and others, however, have just been clear-cut Oscar bait. Recent films like Amelia, J. Edgar, and The Fifth Estate were all met with universal negative reviews (I think I was the lone wolf on the Fifth Estate bandwagon), and they all failed to make an impact on the Oscar race. It’s not enough anymore to make a showy biopic. With so much competition these movies have to be well made to make a substantial impact. One of the major biopics of this Oscar season, The Theory of Everything, thankfully stands on its own as a relatively successful biopic.
The Theory of Everything follows the life of Stephen Hawking, who through his relationship with his wife Jane tries to overcome substantial medical setbacks.
The most hype surrounding The Theory of Everything at this juncture is for the performances, which are without a doubt the standout aspect about the film. A lot of people have been buzzing about Eddie Redmayne in the early stages of his career, but I never understood the hype. Here, however, Redmayne completely disappears into the role as Hawking, completely embodying the character’s smarts, wit, and willpower without ever being too showy with his performance. Redmayne’s performance also has a lot of versatility, as he evolves throughout the film as his health continues to deteriorate.
Perhaps even better, however, is Felicity Jones as Jane Hawking. Jones has the tough role of being the matriarch who essentially has to raise a family while looking after her ill husband. As Jane, Jones shows her pure tenacity and strength, as her love and caring is the glue that holds this broken family together. Both Jones and Redmayne also have great chemistry together throughout the film, with a natural connection and quite a bit of charming banter. For me at least, both are very much deserving of Oscar nominations.
These performances are not only great performances, but both Redmayne and Jones are the heart and soul of the film with their respective roles. Both characters have immense struggles to tackle, as Stephen’s declining health and Jane’s increasingly tough job as the matriarch of the family. These struggles seem possible, though, through these characters’ bond together, which kept me rooting for them throughout the film. This led to quite a few inspiring moments that honestly had me tearing up.
For a period piece, The Theory of Everything has a great look. Director James Marsh is a very underrated director, as shown with the highly underrated documentaries Man on Wire and Project Nim. Marsh creates a great visual aesthetic, directing the film with more flair than your standard period piece. From some impressive shots by Benoit Delhomme and Marsh’s visual flair, the film has an appealing and arresting visual appearance.
A great deal of the film is quite engaging. Perhaps the aspect of the film I most questioned going into the film was the science aspect, but it was communicated by writer Anthony McCarten in a very informative yet intriguing way. The romance itself is also quite engaging, as seeing new layers in their relationship continued to be interesting. There is one aspect, though, that happened to be less engaging.
While there were some powerful moments during this process, The Theory of Everything at points focuses too much on the disease aspect of Stephen’s life. It’s not that it’s done poorly, but a lot of what’s done with his illness feels very typical to other films about people overcoming health obstacles. It seems to me that his relationship with his wife and his work were far more interesting to watch, and at times McCarten’s script sidelines these topics, focusing more on Stephen’s medical issues.
As a whole, the film due to this feels slightly uneven. The first two thirds of this movie moved at a relatively good pace, but the final third in general where the character Jonathan enters as an aid and friend of the family feels a bit more bogged down. A lot of the final third featured scenes that seemed to either go nowhere or go in a routine and obvious direction. This is a shame, as much of the first two acts felt very tightly constructed and freshly told.
Perhaps my biggest issue with the film itself is that there seemed to be missing potential with the romantic subplot. The film starts off quickly, as the two meet within the first two scenes, and within the next ten minutes they are married. I felt like the film as a whole should of put most of its focus on the romantic subplot, as it was the relationship that affected their lives significantly. The film shows how they meet and how they grew throughout the years, but more running time focused on the relationship could have been beneficial to show more of its inner workings.
The Theory of Everything is a thoughtful and emotionally resonant biopic that is worthy of its Oscar hype mainly due to two of the year’s best performances by Redmayne and Jones.