So based upon the favourable reviews, the number of nominations (including Best Picture) and the win at the Golden Globes and BAFTA awards for Eddie Redmayne for Best Actor I finally had a chance to see The Theory of Everything. I share in many of Alison’s views (previously shared) about biopics and the acting challenge that it requires. In the last 10 years, there have been 6 biopic Best Actors award winners and 4 non-biopic. The last six years it has been alternating between biopics and not. Last year was NOT with Matthew McConaughey. The year before was Yes for Lincoln. Then The Artist (No), Kings’s Speech (Yes), Crazy Heart (No), Milk (yes) and Last King of Scotland (Yes). If the pattern continues, and it will, this year we have a biopic winner. But history aside, what about the movie?
I had heard mixed reviews about the film. All the nominations quite frankly surprised me. The two key performances with Redmayne and the Wife (Felicity Jones) are solid. This is a story of remarkable resilience for a man who was given a death sentence (“two years to live”) early on in his life. We see his struggles and the brilliance of his mind. Much like Daniel Day Lewis with Christie Brown in My Left Foot, you have a physical transformation of the man as he succumbs to the disease. His body folds away underneath him and settles uneasily into a wheelchair ultimately. There is a scene of tremendous struggle where he tries to get up a flight of stairs to his bedroom with his young toddler son watching. Another after he loses the power of speech. Still, he has the love and support from his Wife. She is good as well. Although for the older scenes as she ages, she is just a little too young looking still. I was awaiting her Jennifer Connolly A Beautiful Mind moment where she explodes from frustration in dealing with her everyday life, but she doesn’t. Maybe that is a strength in the performance, but somehow I think that more range can be shown. Or perhaps it comes from the fact that this movie is based upon Jane’s own book of living with Stephen. It reminds me of The Affair (just begun for me to see on a plane this weekend – where perspective plays a huge roll and the same scene is shown to different eyes and lens). Maybe that is HER interpretation of events with him. Redmayne has to show range through his face, and body language as his character loses speech fairly early on. I did find it predictable as a story, and I cannot think of this as the Best Picture. I like Imitation Game and Birdman more than this –unfairly comparing completely different films. But back to Alison’s point, Professor Hawking is still alive. There is much footage about his life and his history. In many ways Redmayne is replaying old home movies. To that end, I am still backing Cumberbatch as a better performance and gets my vote for Best Actor. Redmayne will likely win. But to me, there is more to fill in (and act) for a character who was not as well known. In the end we will see.
Another film started but not finished for me was The Judge. Another TIFF film with Robert Duvall and Robert Downey is his most smart-ass like self acting as a lawyer separated by life from his family. They don’t get along, and he and his Judge father do not talk. But his Mom dies and he needs to pay his respects to this backwater town in Indiana to bury her. He meets up with younger and older brothers. He exchanges groans with Dad until Dad is charged with hitting a local everyman with his car and killing him. Step in Robert Downey and let the clichés rain on down. I did not even see the ending, but I know how this ends. Let’s just say the youngest brother in the family finds a way to film his way into saving the day! That is a total guess on my part so I cannot be said to give it all away. But I don’t feel the need to finish this film as it was going through the motions. Billy Bob Thornton is admirable as a cocky Prosecutor. And there is Vera Farmiga who should work more, and so should the woman playing her daughter. But I am glad that I did not pay $25 to see this film.
Incidentally, having seen Episode 2, 3 and 4 of The Affair that won best drama in TV for Golden Globes I am enjoying the story. I like the perspectives taken, and the intrigue. I will watch more episodes.