As the Academy Awards race begins to heat up, more movies will be released well into the end of the month. Last week, the latest potential picture of the year, Theory of Everything, came to Raleigh.
The movie stars both British newcomer Eddie Redmayne and the more-versed yet relatively unknown Felicity Jones as Stephen and Jane Hawking, respectively. Redmayne provides audiences with an enthralling transformation of a successful and slightly awkward young man working at Cambridge in the 1960’s to a small and wheelchair bound sufferer of Lou Gehrig’s disease. Because of this, the film has emerged as an early 2015 Oscar front-runner and will likely earn multiple nominations.
The movie proved to be, in a word, brilliant. Almost everyone is familiar with the scientist, the mathematician, the astrophysicist god. However, this story explored something much deeper – Hawking’s heartbreaking dissent into a physically paralyzing life, yet still a life of zest and curiosity. Redmayne’s control over his facial muscles alone was amazing and this dedication to the role is what could easily win him his first Academy Award.
In an interview with NPR, Redmayne relayed just how far he went to bring respect and subtlety to this physically demanding role.“I went to a neurology clinic in London, and they educated me on ALS. And what I wanted to make sure was that those physicalities were so embedded in me that I wasn’t going to be playing a physicality, as it were; wasn’t gonna be playing the disease, but could actually just play the human story at the core of the piece.”
Felicity Jones also gave a genuine performance, as this story is just as much about Jane Hawking, Stephen’s wife, as it is about him. Within the first twenty minutes of the movie, one sees Jane give up nearly her entire life, ending scholarly pursuits, in order to tend to Stephen’s increasingly disabled husband. For a woman who was told her husband would only live for two years, she handled a lifetime of caregiving with grace.
Besides the fresh and sympathetic performances, the movie is classicly “Oscar worthy.” The Academy loves moving biopics, especially if they involve male historical figures in a debilitating or handicapped position, (The King’s Speech, 2011 and 12 Years a Slave, 2013). James Marsh, the director, will most likely earn a nomination as well.
The film mainly succeeds because it shows the many dimensions of Hawking the man, not just the legend. Redmayne brings passion, empathy, humor and a bit of cheekiness to a man – who in theory – shouldn’t be able to physically express personality. In essence, the film is charming and poignant, showing audiences an uplifting story of the triumph of the human spirit.