Eddie Redmayne dazzles as Stephen Hawking in the new Oscar-ready film about the genius’ life and relationship with his wife, Jane. But it is really Felicity Jones’ as Jane, Hawking’s young, suffering but trying wife that steals the picture right from under Redmayne that kept me going as I watched James Marsh’s new sappy biopic that were at some parts uneven, but was remarkably saved by the tremendous performances by the two leads.
Focusing mainly on Stephen and Jane’s life together as a married couple, the film has both its redeeming qualities and bad factors that hindered the film to become a true champion. Though it isn’t hard seeing this enter the Oscar race with its supporters, the film is nothing short of mediocre at best and very safe to call a true film masterpiece. Thankfully, the two performers are so committed that the film is worthy of a viewing and a reasonably high rating. Starting off in Stephen and Jane’s dating days, all the way to his worldwide success as a scholar, the script never forgot that Jane (whose book was adapted into the film) is a major character that deserves equal (and in my opinion more) screen time and praise that Redmayne will receive this awards season.
Felicity Jones’ Jane begins as the typical collegiate English girl, with her own notions of life that may look very limited to viewers. But as Jane dives into the world of her new love Stephen and his love for everything science, we also get a look at her life and how it changes completely. As Stephen goes through his famous sickness and Jane must endure her husband’s fate both mentally and physically, we see Jane unravel with a complex and heartfelt performance by Jones. The perfect thing about her performance is that she never goes over the top, and continues to show us Jane’s ladylike behaviour in a very subtle way but never forgets to convey emotions and depth with her eyes. It’s a star making turn that overshadows her male lead considerably.
Redmayne, who has the easier role to emulate, had the role of Stephen Hawking. Though it’s a tough and admirable job that he achieves (and he is defiantly committed), it’s was easier to achieve looks and characteristics of famous people then try to create your own character like Jones has done with the lesser known Mrs. Jane Hawking. Still, Redmayne shines in a role that will easily garner awards. Though he was fantastic, he is easily the lesser performance of the two leads and it isn’t even his best work (the best would be his turn in 2012’s Les Miserables).
As a biopic, the film hits the right notes but also fails in some categories. The cinematography wasn’t too great, though it had its moments with the more obviously grander scenes, the film forgets that every frame must contribute to the larger picture, leaving the less important dialogue scenes to look and feel rather boring. The rest of the production design was nothing to write home to, but the score was good.
My overall problem with the film is definitely James Marsh’s direction. The film felt like it was part two of A Beautiful Mind (2001), which I liked a lot but that is its own film and shouldn’t be emulated in any way. Marsh, though he directed two very strong performances in Redmayne and Jones, failed to make the film interesting in an artistic point of view. His work limited the film to its full potential and at the end of the day, The Theory of Everything is a very basic and safe movie that cannot compare to the playing field of very original and strong films that 2014 has offered us so far. Though the Academy will react to the film well, I’m afraid that for me (apart from the performance), it will be lost in the shuffle for my personal awards by the end of 2014.
Anthony McCarten’s dialogue, though serviceable, was in the least bit interesting, and the greater moments of the film were in the quieter moments between the two leads. As much as I wanted to love The Theory of Everything, I thought it was mediocre at very, very best. Though that is still something to be very impressed with. However, I fear that with the wrong casting, the film could have been one of the worst movies this year. Thank the movie heavens that Redmayne and Jones swooped in to save the day with their wonderful turns that deserve the acclaim they have and are yet to receive.