Monday, December 29, 2014
The Theory of Everything
What is The Theory of Everything? At a surface level, the answer appears rather obvious: this is the story of a marriage. It is also, though, a capsule recap of Stephen Hawking's life in moments. Throughout the film there's a sense of what it should or could be versus what it is. It provides us with glimmers of an impressionistic type of cinema, but then back peddles into a very English, staid period piece. It turns our love story expectations inside out to show us the ugly side of their relationship, but then shies away from any sense of fallout. The film's first half is a very pretty, effectively devastating depiction of a love story against all odds, and in those scenes it makes sense that we're presented with the unfolding events as a flipbook of important moments. We see life as it was in Hawking's graduate student days at Cambridge, we're shown life as it could have been in Stephen and Jane's blissful, bantering courtship, and finally we're shown their shared commitment in the face of Stephen's battle with motor neuron disease. He's breaking down, both are struggling to keep things together. And then? The film sticks to the same formula. It never plateaus. It never seems to have a sense of what it wants to accomplish in its run time. Theory of Everything grows into a rhizomatic structure that tries to do so much that it begins to fall emotionally flat. The further we get into the lives of the Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones), the more the film keeps us at a distance.