Dec 10

“The Theory of Everything” (All That in One Movie?)

There should be no boundaries to human endeavor. We are all different. However bad life may seem, there is always something you can do, and succeed at. While there’s life, there is hope. Stephen Hawking, The Theory of Everything

Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones star in the newly released The Theory of Everything. Isn’t it kinda ironic, though, that the IMDB can sum it up ( I mean, it’s the theory of EVERYTHING!) in just a few words? “A look at the relationship between the famous physicist Stephen Hawking and his wife.”

Rex Reed, New York Observer, is hardly alone in his rave reviews of Redmayne’s role, calling it “the most electrifying performance of the year.” And someone was also bound to say this: “Eddie Redmayne knocks it straight out of the universe” (Lou Lumenick, New York Post).

Many, however, also go out of their way to add kudos for Jones, whom Ann Hornaday, Washington Post, says “…deserves just as much credit for her less showy but more technically tricky portrayal of a woman who, far from being a traditional self-sacrificing helpmate, is trying to reconcile her Christian conscience and conjugal devotion with her own academic career and evolving physical and spiritual needs.”

What kind of theories will you learn?

Ty Burr, Boston Globe:

Don’t come to ‘The Theory of Everything’ for the science — there isn’t any. At least, not enough to reasonably sustain a two-hour film about the most celebrated theoretical physicist of our time. Anyway, black holes and dark stars aren’t why we’re interested in Stephen Hawking. We’re drawn by the paradox of that big brain in that ruined body, by the tenacity it takes to turn the death sentence of ALS into a long and illustrious career…

If not theories, then what?

Based on ‘Traveling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen,’ a 2007 memoir by the physicist’s first wife, Jane, ‘Theory’ is a love story and then a falling-out-of-love story.

How much of the film is really true? 

Hawking himself says it’s “broadly true.”

Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle, about scriptwriter Anthony McCarten: “[He] …doesn’t enslave himself to specific facts. Jane is strengthened, Hawking is softened and incidents are dramatized, and yet everything is the service of emphasizing the basic truths. ‘The Theory of Everything’ doesn’t shy away from depicting the horrors of Hawking’s illness, nor the strains that it put on his marriage.”

Peter Howell, Toronto Star: “This is sheer poppycock, of course, but it makes for fine drama, and that’s all Cupid and Oscar care about.”

Michelle Dean, The Guardiansays it’s all too simplistic and “diverges so much from its source it seems dishonest.”

To learn more about what’s factual and what’s not, consider this article at Slate.

Stephen Hawking

The theme of time is paramount. Not only did Hawking eventually write the renowned A Brief History of Time, it’s also made clear that time is so of the essence in his personal life. Adds J.R. Jones, Chicago Reader: “For all the scientific rhetoric about the nature of time, what matters most here is how it forges, and then tests, the bond between two people.”

An apt summary of the man from Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle:

Though something sneaky and devious comes across in Hawking — this giant, all-seeing brain attached to a shriveled stalk — he becomes a heroic figure, in a completely earned and unfussy way. Just as he tried, as a young man, to think himself beyond the world, beyond the solar system and beyond the galaxy, as a sick man he tries to think himself beyond his body and project his mind out into the universe.

What a mismatch: All the mysteries of creation versus a single man, with not only one hand tied behind his back, but two arms, two legs and a torso. And yet Hawking has remained game for the fight. What could be more resilient or laudable?

Selected Reviews

Justin Chang, Variety: “A stirring and bittersweet love story, inflected with tasteful good humor…”

Ann Hornaday, Washington Post: “’The Theory of Everything’ achieves its uplift by acknowledging that uplift isn’t always possible, at least in the strictest sense: It’s an exceptional film, not because of its protagonists’ impressive triumphs, but because it honors their struggle.”

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune: “It works best as a study of human vulnerability and love’s way with us all, and as such, a handsomely mounted, slightly hollow picture by the end becomes a very affecting one.”