So I watched The Theory of Everything…
Now movies like this – biopics on tortured geniuses with physical or mental abnormalities – are usually fast-tracks to Academy Awards (well, unless you’re Leonard DiCaprio) so I walked in expecting a lot from this movie and, with the exception of Eddie Redmayne’s acting, I was left thoroughly disappointed.
Okay, basic plot: Eddie Redmayne stars as Stephen Hawking, an incredibly intelligent, super funny and all round charismatic nerdy physicist who gets dealt a pretty shitty hand from life when he finds out that he has Motor Neuron Disease. But Hawking doesn’t let this hold him back and proves that he can do anything a regular person can, like creating groundbreaking theories that change the world of science and getting cheated on by his wife.
Before I begin my review, I’m going to have a little discussion about what makes a good movie. I’ve found that there are, generally, three principal elements: a powerful, well-driven story, good acting and good composition (which is made up of the technical aspects of film such as editing, direction, the score etc). Now, unfortunately, The Theory of Everything only has one of these three elements, that being Redmayne’s superb acting. I still prefer Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance in The Imitation Game but it’s two different approaches to acting and the approach that was needed to portray Hawking is easier to spot as good acting.
Let me explain: throughout the movie, Hawking is going through a process of losing control over his muscles, including his speech. These are ‘big’ gestures. It’s easy to see a limp or hear slurred speech, so it’s easier to identify the quality of the acting. But in Imitation Game, Cumberbatch has to display idiosyncrasies and subtle personality cues and it’s easier to miss these. It’s not something obvious like being bound to a wheelchair or having to completely alter your speech pattern, it’s all about portraying nuances and, for me, this requires greater skill.
But, that being said, I still do believe Redmayne deserved his Oscar. His performance is spellbinding. I know I said that it’s easier to recognise the quality of his acting because of the conspicuousness of the performance he has to deliver but the moments where I appreciated his acting the most was in the emotion he was able to convey in the look of his eyes or in the movement of his eyebrows. He completely threw himself into the character of Hawking and, although I preferred Cumberbatch’s performance, I have to acknowledge the quality that Redmayne delivers in this film and admit that he probably did deserve the Oscar just a little bit more.
Now outside of Redmayne’s performance, the supporting cast also do quite well. Good acting in movies like this is standard and I don’t think any of them did anything amazing but they put in solid shifts and produce the goods when called upon.
All in all, I found this movie extremely boring. Not because the story is boring but because the movie isn’t well put together. This movie lacks focus and is often confused about which element of Hawking’s life it wants to make the focal point and which elements it wants in the periphery. If you look at A Beautiful Mind, which is very similar in terms of genre, the focal point of that is the character’s personal life, with his professional life as a backdrop; whereas in The Imitation Game, the character’s professional life is focal with his personal life being in the periphery. The Theory of Everything never makes a decision about which of these two routes it wants to follow and ends up hopping between the two without really showcasing either.
The movie is also poorly edited and is lacking a sharpness that would have really made the story more powerful. I wasn’t emotionally invested in this movie at all. I think its main problem is that it tries to be too realistic. When I go watch a biopic I want to be given information that has been sifted through an emotional sieve. This means I want to learn about the person’s life but I also want drama, even if this drama has to be created through the blurring of fact and the addition of sensationalism. I’m not going to watch a biopic so I can write a doctoral thesis on the life of the main character, I came to the cinema to be entertained. ENTERTAIN ME!
Overall, I didn’t like this movie. It’s about twenty minutes too long and doesn’t provide the entertainment factor I so desperately crave. The only reasons to see this movie are: 1. you’re a huge Stephen Hawking fan and 2. you want to see some truly special acting from Redmayne. It’s not worth a trip to the cinema, wait for it to come to your favourite torrent site and call it a day. 5/10