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ADVANCE: The Theory of Everything - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
ADVANCE: The Theory of Everything
Directing: C+
Acting: A-
Writing: C-
Cinematography: B+
Editing: C

Why didn't they just call it The Gleaning Over Everything? The "theory" gets almost completely lost in goopy romantic drama with Stephen Hawking's disease as the backdrop.

What really makes Hawking's life noteworthy, including multiple seminal works in cosmology, is bizarrely reduced to incidentals. Hawking is now and has long been a very famous scientist; he's the guy in a wheelchair with a robotic voice. But if director James Marsh's approach is any indication, any lay person is far too stupid to understand anything but the most rudimentary explanations of Hawking's ideas of the history of time. There's more scientific insight in Interstellar. Mind you, I'll freely admit that I could never get much deeper than surface understandings of Hawkings's ideas and concepts, but I still felt like The Theory of Everything was insulting my intelligence.

The primary reason for this is the overbearing Hollywood-ization of this great man's story. There's a bit of irony there, given this is actually a British film. But this is not so much a story about Hawkings's achievements as it is about how his career affected his personal life. Marsh, supposedly, is offering the "human" side of him: he falls in love with a young woman who dedicates her life to taking care of him even when it's said he only has two years to live, and ultimately has three of his children. But she falls in love with a hired caretaker from her church and he falls in love with one of his speech therapists. It's a little like a soap opera with English accents -- well, one of them later becomes an American robot accent.

And, okay, sure, it's all very pretty. Early scenes of Stephen and Jane's courtship are quite lovely, if transparently overlaid by movie-romance (complete with fireworks display). And if any true compliment can be given to The Theory of Everything, it’s the acting: Eddie Redmayne gives a performance worthy of an Oscar nomination in the role of Hawking; it's just too bad the movie itself isn't good enough for him to win, or to deserve any such awards. Felicity Jones as his increasingly frustrated wife closely matches him. These are two actors who dig deeply enough into their parts that their performances are far better than the movie deserves.

Alas, no performance is great enough to elevate a movie this schmaltzy. Nothing can save it, really. This is a film that buckles under the weight of its inept script. And it can be deceptively pleasant -- it's generally engaging, at least until the end, when it subjects the viewer to the same "rousing" speech that elicits thunderous applause from an audience we've all seen a billon times before. Except this time the speech is from an automated voice, controlled by one of the greatest thinkers in our time, who here is reduced to saccharine hogwash and depressingly cheapened in the process. It made me want to barf.

I might have been somewhat kinder to this movie but for how it ends. Hawking himself was reportedly delighted by the film, which was adapted from his wife's memoir, and I suppose that just feeds into the stereotype of brilliant people having no common sense. Or maybe I'm just a snob: The Theory of Everything is an undeniable crowd-pleaser, perfectly satisfactory for its target audiences longing for touching stories that tug at heartstrings. For the rest of us, however, who hoped for some deeper cinematic insight into Hawkings's actual contributions to the world, we're shit out of luck.

Eddie Redmayne is one of the few good things about THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING.

Overall: C+

Opens Friday, November 14.
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