Film Reviews

The Theory of Everything Just Doesn’t Add Up

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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.

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Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne as Jane and Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. Photo Credit: focusfeatures.com

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.

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Felicity Jones shines as Jane Hawking in The Theory of Everything! Photo Credit: www.hollywoodreporter.com

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.

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Maxine Peake as Elaine Mason, Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking, and Felicity Jones as Jane Hawking in The Theory of Everything. Photo Credit: www.hollywoodreporter.com

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.

A Passionate Beat: Whiplash Astounds!

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Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash opened in theaters on October 10, 2014. Photo credit: chulawired.com

As the film awards season heats up, I spend more and more of my time in a darkened theater educating myself on the potential nominees and the new film, Whiplash, was the first in a long line of films on my list. I can honestly say I really didn’t know what to expect from this movie, it didn’t have major, recognizable names leading the cast, this was the first film for director Damien Chazelle, and it did not have a major advertising campaign preceding its release. Needless to say, I love the feeling of sitting in a dark theater and having absolutely no idea what is about to unfold before me, which is nearly impossible in today’s world of 24 hour media.

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Miles Teller as Drum Student, Andrew Neiman in 2014’s Whiplash! Photo credit: heavy.com

Intense does not seem like a strong enough word to describe Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash. Every aspect of the film leaves the audience panting to catch up. It is a roller coaster of emotion and passion that exhausted me as much as a half hour on the treadmill. Miles Teller and JK Simmons give two of the most realistic and honest performances in recent memory. Teller brings such vulnerability to his character that you can feel him pulling on his passion for his own craft. Simmons is ruthlessly brilliant as Terrence Fletcher, the brutally honest and driven music professor to Teller’s Andrew Neiman, a music student at the fictional Shaffer Conservatory. Paul Reiser and Melissa Benoist make convincing appearances as Neiman’s father and girlfriend, respectively.

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Miles Teller and JK Simmons in Whiplash! Photo credit: ew.com

Whiplash is a stunning portrayal of an artist’s passion for their work and the fire that drives them to perfection. The film is also a stinging analysis of emotional abuse and its effects on the human spirit, especially on the young men that Fletcher strives to inspire. I hope to see the film in the running for a slew of awards in the coming months, not the least of which should be honored are Teller and Simmons’ performances.

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Miles Teller as the star of Whiplash. Photo credit: vulture.com