Rated: PG-13 for some thematic elements and suggestive material. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: November 7, 2014 Released by: Focus Features
Inspirational, sensitively drawn biopic from James Marsh(Shadow Dancer, Project Nim) chronicles the most renowned, innovative astrophysicist since Albert Einstein, progressive,neurologically debilitated Stephen Hawking, and is based on his first wife's memoir. The great worldwide celebrity obviously has persevered through losing nearly all of his maneuverability to still be a vital septuagenarian having created the extremely applauded A Brief History of Time and been on The Big Bang Theory and the long-running animated The Simpsons.
The Theory of Everything isn't all that a strictly by-the-numbers film which stars a never-better Eddie Redmayne and a sharp Felicity Jones and could land Oscar nominations for both in a touching story of a remarkable couple. Yes, Marsh may not get into this extraordinary genius's beautiful mind like some BBC adaptations or Cinema verite have in Hawking's indefatigability against a motor neuron affliction (akin to Lou Gehrig's disease). It doesn't have quite the poignancy and artistry of My Left Foot or The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, but it doesn't matter in the tenderness and affection Marsh gives to the material.
Cambridge University in 1963 is where two very gifted students, Stephen (Redmayne) and poetically-inclined Jane (Jones of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and very good as a British exchange student in the artsy Like Crazy) became inseparable before a terrible fall put his life in jeopardy. Within a couple of years Hawking's situation looked grim leading to being ventilated after a bout with pneumonia, but through a quarter-of-a-century marriage and three children remained steadfast despite overwhelming physical odds. The way Stephen's life becomes so taxing and such a strain for caregiver Jane lets Jones tap into the pathos of her character as she becomes very intimate with a choirmaster (Charlie Cox). Enough so that even an approving husband lets him into the household, a man whom Jane would eventually marry.
An affecting tale that will enlighten in spite of mostly adhering to convention is heightened by what Redmayne (revolutionary Marius in Les Miserables-2012) does to etch the physical and mental grace strokes of being confined to a wheelchair and communicating by voice-synthesized technology, not unlike the depiction of the late, great film critic Roger Ebert in Steve James's unflinching, absorbing documentary Life Itself. The tenderness extends to Hawking's gravitating towards one of his nurses (a fleetingly effective Maxine Peake, to whom he would later be married for amount a dozen years). Yet, The
Theory of Everything proves to be a malleable more so as a love story than the enormous brilliance of a marred man into such inscrutable stuff as wormholes.
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