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You are my density

The Theory of Everything: Why does the nerd always get the girl?
The Theory of Everything: Why does the nerd always get the girl?
Movie

Theory of Everything *

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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 (<em>Project Nim</em>), to this, his master class on the price of suffering and the value of sentiment.

Find showtimes

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. Then why rely on The Theory of Everything to turn the life of the smartest guy on the planet — a man who has battled enough hardship to last a hundred lifetimes — into a treacly, over-romanticized tearjerker?

For one thing, the rocket scientist and the first Mrs. Hawking are alive and assenting. For another thing, awards season will soon be upon us, and Oscar has a proven record of rewarding players who take on characters who are physically and/or intellectually less fortunate. If you don’t believe me, ask Forrest “Charley” Gump.

We open on Hawking’s first year as a doctoral student at Oxford. A 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.

Hawking meets the chipmunk-cheeked academician of his dreams (Felicity Jones) at a college social for eggheads. After a few beers and some jibber-jabber about quantum mechanics, the two singularities appear destined to create a universe of their own.

Then one day, tragedy strikes.

There is not a moment in the film where Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score and Benoît Delhomme’s lighting don’t 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 proceedings. Even an attempt at expressionist color can’t avoid the formula generally assigned these types of mass-appeal biopics. Gold-flaked lighting, particularly at night, signals a nostalgic trip to the past. Yellow frames with grain the size of basketballs means a home movie mock-up. Blue indicates passion, red equals danger, and a fish-eye lens makes Hawking’s hospital stay look like a tour of Bedlam. And you don’t want to know what happens when the light source (strategically placed in the shot) causes the picture to burn out to pure white.

Working from Jane Hawking’s book Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, screenwriter Anthony McCarten goes to great pains to chronicle as much of Hawking’s physical torment as possible. With mutual infidelity and the emotional pain it incurs barely hinted at, McCarten pretty much dismisses the marital discord with a “They lived happily ever after” title card that ushers in the closing credits.

James Marsh went from signing the leanest third of the Red Riding trilogy to channeling Robert Bresson’s austerity for a documentary about chimpanzees (Project Nim), and directing a durable political thriller (Shadow Dancer). The Theory of Everything is his master class on the price of suffering and the value of sentiment.

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The Theory of Everything: Why does the nerd always get the girl?
The Theory of Everything: Why does the nerd always get the girl?
Movie

Theory of Everything *

thumbnail

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 (<em>Project Nim</em>), to this, his master class on the price of suffering and the value of sentiment.

Find showtimes

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. Then why rely on The Theory of Everything to turn the life of the smartest guy on the planet — a man who has battled enough hardship to last a hundred lifetimes — into a treacly, over-romanticized tearjerker?

For one thing, the rocket scientist and the first Mrs. Hawking are alive and assenting. For another thing, awards season will soon be upon us, and Oscar has a proven record of rewarding players who take on characters who are physically and/or intellectually less fortunate. If you don’t believe me, ask Forrest “Charley” Gump.

We open on Hawking’s first year as a doctoral student at Oxford. A 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.

Hawking meets the chipmunk-cheeked academician of his dreams (Felicity Jones) at a college social for eggheads. After a few beers and some jibber-jabber about quantum mechanics, the two singularities appear destined to create a universe of their own.

Then one day, tragedy strikes.

There is not a moment in the film where Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score and Benoît Delhomme’s lighting don’t 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 proceedings. Even an attempt at expressionist color can’t avoid the formula generally assigned these types of mass-appeal biopics. Gold-flaked lighting, particularly at night, signals a nostalgic trip to the past. Yellow frames with grain the size of basketballs means a home movie mock-up. Blue indicates passion, red equals danger, and a fish-eye lens makes Hawking’s hospital stay look like a tour of Bedlam. And you don’t want to know what happens when the light source (strategically placed in the shot) causes the picture to burn out to pure white.

Working from Jane Hawking’s book Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, screenwriter Anthony McCarten goes to great pains to chronicle as much of Hawking’s physical torment as possible. With mutual infidelity and the emotional pain it incurs barely hinted at, McCarten pretty much dismisses the marital discord with a “They lived happily ever after” title card that ushers in the closing credits.

James Marsh went from signing the leanest third of the Red Riding trilogy to channeling Robert Bresson’s austerity for a documentary about chimpanzees (Project Nim), and directing a durable political thriller (Shadow Dancer). The Theory of Everything is his master class on the price of suffering and the value of sentiment.

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Comments
3

But isn't "a treacly, over-romanticized tearjerker" simply an example of Hollywood doing its usual hawking (selling goods)?

Nov. 12, 2014

Right you are, particularly come Oscar season.

Nov. 12, 2014

Whoever came up with the title deserves a raise!

Nov. 12, 2014

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