Rental Corner: “Theory of Everything” heartbreaking as every bit fascintating
Eddie Redmayne must had a hard time trying to perform Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything.” This is not an easy role to take on but somehow he makes to translate the story of a brilliant mind that kept moving forward to an interesting feature in the pursuit of ideas and trying to live. Most biopics of today tend to be romanticized, over-bloated and go as far to change facts just to “spice” things up. The problem today is that no biopic is perfect and will had its detractors. “Hitchcock” and “An Adventure in Time and Space” are a good examples because they are presented more as a tribute while showing real life events. But then you have those like “Buddy” or “Jobs” that will change events for the sake of creativity liberties in making a story creating an uneven narrative that doesn’t know what it wants to say. “Theory of Everything” is more than that.
Eddie’s performance is rather surprising showing Stephen’s college life early on before the effect of his motor neuron disease. It gives us a chance to see his time before the disease overtook his body and shows how brilliant he was. I can only imagine how hard it was to sell viewers the idea of a person with damaged functionality. Once he starts to loose control of his limbs, it gets hard watching Stephen convey his theory of black holes and time while he deals with his weakening body.
For me, this was the center of the movie. When Eddie Redmayne acted like his body was deteriorating bit by bit, I was convinced. This is a man whose knowledge is expansive yet resourceful which only makes you wonder how could he be confined to a wheelchair. The fact he kept his theories and expanding on them while still moving through life makes for a good motion picture about self-confidence and living with your flaws. The special effect is the actor as he has to convince us he is in a weak state and as the movie went on, I too felt bad for everything Hawking went through as much as the real one.
But I can’t say “Theory” is completely perfect. A subplot with Felicity Jones as Hawking’s love interest almost drags the movie down as his condition gets worse to the point she is going camping with a close male friend of hers and worries that his wheelchair bound husband might be cheating. Its the usual biopic stock that is done just to give conflict to the picture. The movie would have been more powerful if it remained on Hawking and his condition and I do admit, it would be interesting to see how his mobility affects his friends around him but this is as close as we get.
Aside from that, “Theory of Everything” works. For every fleeting frame, I felt like I was watching Hawking’s life as he moved on from wheelchair to the next, one mode of communication to an electronic voice box and so forth. The moments that work best are when it focuses on Hawking and his struggles as the condition spreads from his limbs to even his vocals. I kept watching wondering what would happen next and in the end felt satisfied. Its an emotional piece of cinema that’s not overly powerful like “12 Years a Slave” but yet a unique look into one of the most amazing minds that surprisingly exists today.