Biopics have yielded most of the Oscars in recent years. For 2014, at least I see the performances of Bradley Cooper in “American Sniper,” my choice for Best Actor would be Eddie Redmayne because like Philip Seymour Hoffman and Daniel Day-Lewis before him in “Capote” and “My Left Foot,” he goes beyond the obvious traits of his character, the physicist Stephen Hawking, to show many sides of the figure’s personality and to reflect his attitudes, even in scenes after Hawking is stricken with the debilitating disease that paralyzes him at a young age. In addition to portraying the many facets of Hawking, including his sense of humor, Redmayne physically and facially plays the ordeals he goes through and the compensations he must make. You see the strength of Hawking’s character through the actor, and that makes Redmayne’s performance remarkable. He goes beyond his model is forming and presenting his performance.
“The Theory of Everything” is a strong story because it’s one of care and victory. Hawking was as much the nudge to his professors and to the prevailing academic minds in physics at the time as Alan Turing was earlier to Cambridge mathematicians. Redmayne portrays both Hawking’s genius and the social and physical awkwardness that preceded his neural malady. Marsh constructs a wider world in which Hawking, via Redmayne, can be seen in an entire light and not just as man who has the resources and courage to conquer a crippling illness that was supposed to kill him 50 years ago.
“The Theory of Everything” also shows Hawking’s courage as a scholar. As further research disproves or calls into questions his previous theories, including the one that earned him his doctorate and got him labelled a genius in the first place, Hawking embraces the new evidence and is willing to jettison past victories and admit he was wrong. Marsh has made as good a movie about academic verity as he has about an outstanding personality of our time.
Felicity Jones is lovely as the young artist Hawking marries and show strength in devotion as the wife who gets Hawking through the majority of his crises. David Thewlis is fine as Hawking’s professor. Simon McBurney is excellent as the scientist’s father.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 79%