The second half of the year is always filled with “award worthy” films as the nominations start rolling in for the major film awards that will be given out in January and February. For true film lovers, this is a joyous time of year because we’ve survived the Summer Blockbusters and can now revel in the “true” artistic masterpieces that Hollywood can offer. However, for every truly great film that enters theaters there are usually five or six wannabe classics, or, as I like to call them, awards bait. James Marsh’s The Theory of Everything is just that.
The Theory of Everything is a relatively straight forward biopic about acclaimed physicist, Stephen Hawking. Eddie Redmayne portrays Hawking with style but he comes off a bit drab before his diagnosis with a motor neuron disease and, though his physical transformation is impressive, there is little emotion that manages to get through the disfigurement. However, Felicity Jones shines as Jane Wilde Hawking, Stephen’s determined first wife. Jones brings gravitas and skill to a rather lackluster script by showing both Jane’s strength and vulnerability. Mr. Redmayne has been showered with praise for his performance, but, I believe, that it is Ms. Jones that truly deserves our praise.
Anthony McCarten’s screenplay leaves much to be desired. The story is so straightforward it reads more like an encyclopedia entry than a well thought out biography. I consider myself a fan of biopics but was overwhelmingly bored by this film, except for the scenes that Ms. Jones graced the screen. Mr. Marsh’s direction seemed more suited to the documentaries for which he is known. He did little to enhance the story through images and experiences and let the actors tell the story through their dialogue and actions, much as one would in a documentary.
This film is certainly not an awful movie, just an ordinary one. Frankly, I would prefer to watch a terrifically awful film than one that leaves me uninterested. Mr. Hawking’s remarkable journey should not be boring. I’m sure a more accomplished director and screenwriter could have made a much better film but despite the lackluster material, Eddie Redmayne proves his physical capabilities and Felicity Jones gives a terrific performance that I hope gives her the notice she needs to attain better films. I hope that when the awards start getting handed out, the voters overlook this dull attempt to bait them and look to the more interesting and masterful films that are much more deserving of the prize.