Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea. —Henry Fielding

02 December 2014

The Theory of Everything

It would be silly to try to evaluate The Theory of Everything as an actual film. It is a movie so interested in being an Oscar contender and so obviously filmed with "Oscar" in mind, that it only makes sense to talk about Everything as it pertains to Oscar.

This isn't to say that Everything isn't enjoyable at times. It is. But the first half of the film is a generic English love story, and the second half of the film – although we only know the characters because of the parts they generally play in the love-story genre – is a disability narrative that plays up all of the old tropes of disabilities you'd expect from a Hallmark movie.

Eddie Redmayne hits all of the right notes as Stephen Hawking, and he looks the part, his wiry frame and Jan Sewell's makeup combining to convince us that we are looking at the famous physicist.

Felicity Jones is less convincing as Hawking's wife, mostly because she looks about thirty years old throughout the film's entirety (i.e. her actual age). The transformation of Stephen Hawking over time is so vivid and concretely realized that it looks odd to see his wife looking the same age as when he met her at Cambridge when they were both kids. All of this is odd because Everything is ostensibly her story, based on the memoir of Jane Hawking herself. And although the film can't help but be about her more than it is about him, it appears that the filmmakers resisted that as much as they could, attempting to make this the Stephen Hawking story. It is a strange marriage that feels like a struggle throughout.

Mr. Lloyd
For me the standout performance in the movie was by a guy named Harry Lloyd. He plays Hawking's friend at graduate school, and he is the first person to be told that Hawking has two years to live. His work in this sequence is perfect. One sees everything in his face. It is a gorgeously honest performance.

In the film's second act, Charlie Cox is introduced and Everything gets a little queer. It was here where my companions and I perked up at the possibilities of the movie. Maybe, we thought, we are in for something a little different. But the movie can't really manage its own queerness. Uncomfortable in its non-generic territory, it returns us to genre by picking a new genre: this time the overcoming-disability-supercrip narrative so often described by critical disability studies.

But the script, I wager, has some legs for an Oscar nomination, and once audiences see Everything their heartstrings (as it were) are going to be tugged. The score could get an Oscar nomination, as well. I would also expect the two leads to snag nominations. I'm betting four nominations, no wins. And if you don't care about  the Oscars, go ahead and skip this one altogether.