The Academy has a daring mission in front of itself, come February next year – will they award the ALS mathematician or the homosexual one?
The Theory of Everything, a biopic of mathematician Stephen Hawking that covers mostly his relationship with first wife Jane Hawking, is the most recent chapter of “Oh Look It’s Awards Season”. And yes, it appears to be designed mostly to put some weight on its producers awards shelves. And though such ambition may be forgiven if, well, the film is very very good, when we are in the presence of a movie that is okay and not much else, suddenly we get a bit of a grudge against the poor thing. How dare it get nominated for Best Film on the Golden Globes? Have people actually seen it??
Maybe it’s a case of confusing your love by the character portrayed – Hawking is, everyone knows, Nerds’ God – with the warmth that you feel in your stomach and brain when you see a really good film. We don’t judge, it’s okay, but how much will you remember of it when the next batch of “I want an award” biopics comes out next year?
You will remember, we hope, the amazing performance of Felicity Jones as Jane Hawking. And Eddie Redmayne, as Stephen, being particularly impressive as we consider that, wow, he can’t barely move and yet the acting is spot on. But will you remember the story? Based on Jane Hawking’s book (and maybe that’s why The Theory of Everything feels so much like her story, and not Stephen’s), and laboured and championed by screenwriter Anthony McCarten during 10 years until it reached the screen, it may be factual, but damn, what a boring and straightforward way to tell it. Yes, it is terrible to see the physical deterioration of a brilliant man. But one can’t stop feeling all the emotion we feel about it comes more from external knowledge we know about his attitude towards his disease than from the film in front of us.
Maybe James Marsh, mostly known by his work on the brilliant Man on Wire and Project Nim, was not the right man for the job. He is a great documentarist, but when fiction is concerned a different kind of warmth is required. Both Redmayne’s and Jones’s performances could have been pushed so much further – as it is we rarely go above lukewarm. Maybe the script doesn’t dare beyond conventional, unlike its protagonist. Still, film lovers and regular audiences, you are given no choice – this one will be very much talked about during the next 3 months, so get into the band wagon, go see it and feel free to disagree with me. And then you can tell everyone that you’ve seen the film that started up Redmayne’s career – but alas, he did lost the Oscar for that Michael Keaton guy then, didn’t he…
The Theory of Everything will be on UK cinemas on 1st January 2015.