Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Theory of Everything (2014) ****

I expected that “The Theory of Everything” would either be a traditional love story or a love letter to science. It turns out to be a love letter to life itself, to making the most of what you have, and to the idea that where there is life, there is hope. There's also some romance and science.

Everyone by now has heard about Eddie Redmayne's amazing performance as physicist Stephen Hawking. The story picks up with Hawking entering graduate school at Cambridge. He is a bit nerdy and socially awkward, but not as much as you might expect. There's a twinkle in his eye, and he isn't afraid to say hi to a pretty girl at a party. This is how he meets Jane (Felicity Jones), who eventually becomes his wife. It is during this time that Hawking not only develops some of the theories about time and black holes for which he became famous, but also to manifest the symptoms of the early-onset ALS which inexorably paralyzed him.

Redmayne really does deserve kudos for this performance. The sheer physicality required to display the various stages of Hawking's illness is impressive. Equally impressive is the way Redmayne uses his increasingly limited physical repertoire to portray this incredibly vital man, sometimes saying volumes with only the twinkle of an eye.

Movies about people with an illness can be movie-of-the-week downers, but “The Theory of Everything” is not hard to watch at all. Redmayne's vibrant portrayal of the funny, impish Hawking, combined with Felicity Jones's adorableness, make for a thoroughly enjoyable movie experience. I do wish they had focused a little more on the science, but if there's one thing we can learn from Hawking's life, it's that you can't have everything.

4 stars out of 5

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