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The Theory of Everything 

Pushing aside Stephen Hawking's achievements for a conventional romantic biopic

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The Theory of Everything
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I suppose one could be annoyed at James Marsh's The Theory of Everything because it pushes aside Stephen Hawking's titanic achievements in understanding the universe in favor of conventional romantic biopic material. It seems like a more valid reason for annoyance that it's not even particularly good as a conventional romantic biopic.

The story opens in Cambridge in 1963, where physics grad student Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) is doing typical physics grad student things, like trying to figure out his thesis subject and being painfully awkward around girls like Jane Wilde (Felicity Jones). But his life takes the unexpected turn of a diagnosis with ALS, which threatens to cut short his life, his intellectual career and his budding relationship with Jane.

Of course, we know enough to realize that all three of those things lasted longer than his initial two-year survival prognosis, and the film does a solid enough job of conveying Hawking's personal and professional challenges as he adjusts to his ever-diminishing physical capabilities. Redmayne delivers a terrific physical performance, eventually forced to rely on little more than his eyebrows to convey Hawking's emotional state.

But emotion isn't a great strength of The Theory of Everything, as it generally finds the blandest possible way of exploring why Stephen and Jane had a connection in the first place, what factors put a strain on that connection (including their respective straying to other romantic connections), and why they ultimately drift apart. Marsh and his screenwriters seem so determined to make this story dignified and respectable that they sap it of nearly everything human. In its monotonously predictable chronological rhythms and absence of any animating spark, The Theory of Everything feels like a movie run through Hawking's familiar voice processor: You might understand what it's trying to say, but it's purely synthetic.


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The Theory of Everything
Rated PG-13 · 123 minutes · 2015
Director: James Marsh
Producer: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lisa Bruce, Anthony McCarten, Amelia Granger, Liza Chasin and David Kosse
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Charlie Cox, Simon McBurney, Maxine Peake, Charlotte Hope, Tom Prior and Enzo Cilenti
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