I have a theory. The more significant a person’s life, the less interesting the biopic.
“The Theory of Everything” proves the point. Few people have had a more amazing life than Stephen Hawking, the most well known physicist of our generation. He even appeared on “The Big Bang Theory.”
But before he became a household name he was a student at Cambridge University, during which time he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, a progressive degenerative disease which robbed him of his motor skills.
It did not, however, affect his brain. Or his heart.
And the film by James Marsh – based on the memoir of his first wife Jane – is more about the latter than former.
Stephen and Jane Hawking met at Oxford University where he was already the smartest guy in the room when his condition was diagnosed at the age of 21 and given two years to live. After a brief idyllic courtship, they marry and have several kids. Fifty years later Hawking, 72, is a defiant survivor of an illness that he less overcame than battled to a draw.
But he couldn’t have done it without constant sacrifice by his wife, the stress of which drove them apart. Science was his religion but his wife was traditionally religious and was drawn to an organist at her church. He later married his speech therapist and wrote the best seller “A Brief History of Time.”
New technologies were equally crucial to his survival.
When he could no longer walk, he used a motorized wheelchair, when a tracheotomy left him unable to talk, he used a speech synthesizer. Today, reportedly, he uses his cheek muscles to communicate.
Perhaps Because Hawking’s inner life is inscrutable, the film – Marsh also directed “Man On Wire,” “Project Nim” and “Wisconsin Death Trip” – is in the biopic bullet point mold. Felicity Jones plays the long suffering Jane.
But Eddie Redmayne, of “Les Miserables,” gives the sort of transformative performance that Oscar voters love.
Redmayne, in Buddy Holly glasses, brings an impish, cockeyed quality to this portrait of man who spent his life communicating with his mind.Posted by