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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Review: Redmayne shows many shades of genius in new Hawking biopic


    Courtesy of Working Title Films

    A screenshot of Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking and Felicity Jones as Jane Hawking in ʺThe Theory of Everything.ʺ Redmayne is known to audiences for previous roles in ʺMy Week with Marilynʺ and ʺLes Misérables.ʺ

    Eddie Redmayne is Stephen Hawking. That’s the first thing to say about “The Theory of Everything.” The actor, known for “My Week with Marilyn” and 2012’s “Les Misérables,” totally inhabits his role as the brilliant physicist.

    A young man pursing a doctoral degree in physics at Cambridge University, Hawking is a little how one might expect: bespectacled, lanky and not the most socially adept of people. After having a conversation with Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones), the woman who will become his wife and long-time supporter, that lasts the whole night, he commits the cardinal sin of not getting her number. Thankfully, she gives it to him anyway.

    Hawking isn’t all innocent, bookish brains, though. He has a bit of humor laced with a scientifically-superior haughtiness that he keeps throughout his life. Redmayne navigates between the two personas exceptionally well. A slight laugh and grin is actually a scoff when Jane tells him she’s studying medieval poetry and that she believes in God.

    As proof of the theory that opposites attract, Jane and Stephen, the scientist and the artist, begin dating. Jones and Redmayne sink into the puppy love just as well as anyone, but the days of carefree, wide-eyed adoration are few.

    In a great move by director James Marsh and screenwriter Anthony McCarten, the coming tragedy — and triumph — of Hawking presents itself as odd hiccups in his movements. There’s knocking over a coffee cup or his slight difficulty in grabbing a pen. Close-ups of his feet as he moves reveal the occasional stumble or their awkward placement.

    Of course, these seemingly innocuous occurrences are the precursors to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a motor-neuron disease commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s. The disease eats away at Hawking over time, and this cruel, slow breakdown of the body is where Redmayne transcends from acting to inhabiting.

    The physical acting on display makes Hawking’s struggles frustrating and disheartening. Climbing up the stairs of his own home, in a scene that recalls the grueling ascent of Shailene Woodley’s cancer-stricken character up a narrow staircase in “The Fault in Our Stars,” is an impossible challenge. Sometimes, Redmayne’s face is screwed up in a grimace, sometimes it’s a grin and a lot of the time, it’s hard to tell.

    It might be a slight stretch to say that Redmayne carries the film, but there is an emphasis placed on “slight.” The film recounts his advancements in physics that were truly revolutionary in their day, but the audience is not given an appropriate amount of time to digest it all. For a film dealing with black holes and space-time relativity, “Interstellar” respects the science more than a film intended to be about one of the greatest pioneers in the field.

    The film’s shots and colors are beautiful and varied, almost to the point of distraction. Cinematographer Benoît Delhomme had a field day with the palette. The images are sumptuous, but there doesn’t seem to be any cohesion to the aesthetics apart from everything being bathed in a soft, warm glow. In one scene, a church has a green-tint as if it might be underwater, and in the next, it is shot very realistically. Of course, there’s a place for expressionistic, subjective lighting, but it seemed to be overused here.

    A theory that connected all of the different physical forces of the universe, a theory of everything, was what Hawking has dedicated his life to discovering. To this day, he is still on the search. Like Hawking, the film is eluded by the consummate cohesion that it so desires. However, it is Hawking — or rather, Redmayne as Hawking — that makes it worthwhile.

    Grade: B


    Follow Alex Guyton on Twitter.

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