Marketed as the love story of Stephen Hawking and Jane Wilde, The Theory of Everything is just that, a love story. Starting from the day the two meet, we follow the couple through the ups and downs of their beautiful, yet complicated relationship of thirty years. Based on a memoir by Jane Wilde herself, the film is a tale of love lost and the many hardships they endured, but merely dips a toe into marital depth or the genius, a world famous theoretical physicist.
Its the 1960’s and 21-year-old Hawking is racing through the streets of Cambridge on a bicycle. The finish line is a party where he spots Jane Wilde from across the room and two strike up a conversation pertaining to religion and the cosmos. They really don’t have much in common, but the universe is a strange place and opposites seem to attract more often than not. They hit it off and have great chemistry, but soon we begin to see the signs of the devastating disease that will initially bring them closer together and inevitably tear them apart.
Eddie Redmayne delivers a powerful performance, adapting both physically and emotionally as Hawking’s ALS worsens throughout the course of his life. it is apparent his role was thoroughly researched and attention is certainly deserved. When on screen, Redmayne is absolutely captivating. As for Felicity Jones, she’s exemplary here, playing Jane through three decades of marriage and never truly throwing in the towel. If this film ends up getting lost in the end-of-year awards season push, I can only hope attention is brought to both of the leads and better projects come piling in.
It’s difficult to imagine what Hawking himself had to endure, and Redmayne certainly makes one feel sympathy, though I don’t feel the empathy that I think this film deserves. This is at no fault to Redmayne, but rather the result of a poor script which shifts narratively, about thirty minutes in, to Jane;s perspective. As mentioned, this film is based on the book by the real life Wilde, but the story’s focus, dialogue and structure are key problems that threaten to push the film across the line into a Lifetime Network movie event.
Hopes were high for this film, but in the end it just feels like someone wanted to tell a love story about the complications of marriage to someone who is disabled, and wanted a character the world knew already. And Hawking’s story is surely one to tell. But if there’s truly two sides to every story, they unfortunately went with the more unimaginative this time out. [C]
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