Based on what little I know of Stephen Hawking’s private and personal life, the man has never given the impression of one prone to wresting pity from gawkers. Why then turn the life of the smartest guy on the planet into a treacly, over-romanticized tearjerker? Music and lighting act as harsh chaperones, dragging our ears and eyes through the cheek-high fields of sentimentality, constantly dropping reminders of how to respond at any given point in the proceeding. As the stratospherically above-average science nerd, Eddie Redmayne initially portrays Hawking as a charismatic, tousle-haired techie viewing life through keenly cocked horn rims. Once ALS takes hold, Redmayne emerges as an ace impersonator, exacting as much calculated hardship (and pathos) out of his portrayal as humanly possible. Director James Marsh went from channeling Robert Bresson’s austerity for a documentary about chimpanzees (Project Nim), to this, his master class on the price of suffering and the value of sentiment. (2014) — Scott Marks
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