Despite being labeled as an Oscar-bait biopic, The Theory of Everything has much more in common with Interstellar than any of the biopics that have been or will be released this year. Like Interstellar, The Theory of Everything is about how everything dealing with the human condition can be traced back to love. Both films try to build enthusiasm within the audience for science and both, to some degree, deal with the findings of astrophysicist Kip Thorne. However, where The Theory of Everything differs with Interstellar is that it offers nothing that we haven’t seen before. Whereas Interstellar offers a unique experience, The Theory of Everything offers a well-made film under familiar circumstances.
The Theory of Everything follows the triumphs and struggles in the relationship between Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and Jane Wilde Hawking (Felicity Jones). These two actors get the vast majority of the screen time, and both do great work. Due to Stephen Hawking’s real life motor neuron disease, Eddie Redmayne is given the difficult task of portraying that onscreen without making it feel like an over-the-top gimmick. Redmayne does that exceptionally well, and he really makes the audience feel the pain that Hawking had to endure to move or communicate. It’s an authentic pain that feels very much similar to what Colin Firth was doing in The King’s Speech. Meanwhile, Felicity Jones has the difficult task of not being overshadowed by Redmayne. While the writing for the character doesn’t help her much, Jones is so charming that she comes across well.
It’s really the acting and the behind the scenes work (such as Johann Johannsson’s memorable score and some impressive costume work) that makes this film standout because other than that it’s just a typical romantic drama. Too often this film finds itself going from cliché to cliché or trying desperately to come up with a memorable line. Director James Marsh clearly recognizes the faults in the script, and he tries to cover them up with a constantly moving camera that tries to come up with as many interesting visuals as possible. Nothing really stands out, but his work does actually mask the problems of the script to some degree.
There’s a lot of noble work done in this film. It seems like they try to make Jane into a character worthy of leading a film rather than just going for the easy Stephen Hawking biopic. The problem is that Stephen Hawking is just the much more fascinating cinematic character, and a poor script really gets this film into trouble. In the end it’s the acting and the film’s behind the scenes talent that make The Theory of Everything worthwhile.