Jean-Paul’s Rating: 3/5 stars
Bottom Line: Eddie Redmayne has an uncanny likeness to Stephen Hawking. Not much science. Parts of the movie were engrossing, parts plodding. Somewhat annoying soundtrack.
Stephen Hawking is an amazing individual and without a doubt one of the top minds so far in the 21st century. He has also led, as you can imagine, a very complicated personal life. This movie focuses more on the personal life than his life as a cosmologist. At heart, this movie is a love story with maddeningly tiny bits of science intertwined throughout. In the movie’s defense, what Hawking works on is well over the top of most lay people, including myself, and it does a pretty good job of describing the science it delves into so that most people can at least conceptualize it.
I am not sure how true to life the movie is. It is based on an autobiography by Jane Hawking, Stephen’s love interest in the movie. Having read things about the Hawkings’ personal life in the past, I get the feeling that this movie represents the sugar-coated, lipstick-on-a-pig version of the real story. Not that I’d blame anyone for trying to put a better face on what is undoubtedly a compelling story regardless of the glossing over of sordid details.
It was amazing watching Eddie Redmayne portray the degeneration of Stephen Hawking from awkward nerd to the wheelchair-bound, speech-synthesized professor most of us are familiar with as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) ravages his body. Equally amazing, but easily overlooked, was Felicity Jones’ portrayal of Jane Hawking. If this were a better movie, I’d say they would both be nominated for various awards.
The pacing of the movie was somewhat awkward. One could be so inclined to say that this was on purpose and represented Hawking’s awkwardness as his ALS took over his body, but I’m guessing that was not the intent. Much of the awkwardness in the movie, I think, is due to the halting soundtrack. Most of the more compelling parts of the movie are shot with emotion capturing silence, while others have a not out-of-place, but not quite fitting soundtrack that suddenly launches which, for me, almost always detracted from the scene. Then there were the parts that were likely necessary, but lasted a bit too long so your interest would wane slightly.
All in all, though, this was a good biopic of the Hawking family. They are certainly an intriguing family on many levels. I’d recommend it to pretty much anyone. There is no need to see this movie in the theaters, though, so save your money and wait for it to come to the small screen of your home.