Movies: The Theory of Everything

Eddie Redmayne certainly earned his Academy Award with this one, but aside from his magnificent performance, I have to say this movie was on the whole only average.

The Theory of Everything centers on Stephen Hawking's relationship with Jane Wilde, who becomes Jane Hawking before very long. There's no way it wasn't going to be a difficult relationship given Stephen's illness, but Jane sticks it out long enough for them to have three children. In life they were married some 30 years and even now, by accounts, continue to be friends.

Is Jane selfish for wishing she had a more normal life and for sometimes resenting her brilliant but afflicted husband? That's a matter of opinion, I suppose. One could argue she knew what she was getting into, and also say she never knew it would go on for so long—he wasn't expected to live more than a couple years after his diagnosis. I can empathize with Jane on the fact that everything was on her shoulders: housework and child rearing, and on top of that care of Stephen as well. Years of watching my aunt and cousins deal with my disabled cousin Ross . . . And I also used to sit for a girl who had the same disease as Dr. Hawking, so I know the effort involved, and I only did it for a few hours at a stretch.

The short answer, in any case, is that Jane needed support from wherever she could get it. Her mother suggested she join the church choir, ostensibly so that Jane would have something that was just hers, time devoted to something for herself. And in joining the choir, Jane found the love and support of Jonathan Jones. Jonathan became a close family friend and helpmeet, and it seems inevitable—the stuff of novels—that he and Jane would fall for one another. A shared faith makes a solid foundation, especially given that one of Jane's peeves with Stephen was his ambiguous take on God.

The movie does not go as far as Stephen's relationship with his nurse Elaine. It hints but is not explicit, and maybe that's because this film is Stephen and Jane's story, never minding what came after. Really, it's mostly Jane's story; it devotes more time to her conflicts than anything else.

It's a fine movie, but it fails to be compelling, and is most noteworthy for Redmayne's very physical performance. Maybe it's difficult to make biopics great, given we're so used to epic, blockbuster stories nowadays; anything else—anything like real life—is too quiet by comparison.

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