2 hrs 3 mins
WHY WE CHOSE IT — Aspires to be a major Oscar contender; it’s British; it’s about one of the most remarkable individuals of our time — Jane Hawking.
ONE SENTENCE PLOT — Famed British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, stricken with the paralyzing ALS, went on to author the most popular books on physics ever written, and do other important science stuff I don’t understand.
SUBTEXT — Behind every great man is a great woman. Or two.
TARANTINO MOMENTS — MY LEFT FOOT (1989).
QUOTES — Stephen: “A physicist can’t let his calculations to be muddled by a belief in a supernatural creator.” Jane: “That sounds less like an argument against God than against physicists.”
CAST — Eddie Redmayne, Charlie Cox, David Thewlis, Felicity Jones, Simon McBurney, Maxine Peak, Emily Watson, Adam Godley, Christian McKay; Director: James Marsh; Co-Writers: Jane Hawking; based on the 2008 memoir “Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen,” by wife Jane Hawking. (We rate actors based on their performance in the movie, not their star billing).
WARNINGS - Rated PG-13 - Correctly Rated.
GREG’S TAKE — There’s a saying in film criticism, before being laundered by political correctness, that you win Oscars by playing retards, cripples, perverts, whores and addicts, and preferably at least two of them at the same time. Run through the PC filter, the theory translates to this: when you play persons tackling greater challenges, you as an actor must overcome greater acting challenges yourself. Whether that’s true, depends on what kind of actor you are. The more acrobatic you are with your voice, body, and face, the less difficult it is. That’s why Meryl Streep, probably the most gymnastic actor alive, has been nominated 18 times, yet won “only” three. People believe that it’s so easy for her, that it barely counts as work.
Eddie Redmayne is no Streep, but he’s no slacker either. Redmayne’s trademark go-to move — the large, lingering, misty eyes that languorously stare as if seeing everything while unfocused on anything — is absent here. Instead, Redmayne must throw his entire body into the effort, and he succeeds admirably, especially considering he contorts his taller frame without benefit of the shorter and smaller dimensions of the real-life Hawking.
In very typical British dramatic fashion, all the supporting actors are excellent too, even though used sparingly, except for one of my faves, David Thewlis, and Charlie Cox, and up-and-comer in British film.
British director James Marsh, though best known as an Oscar-winning documentarian, made one of Manong’s favorite crime mysteries, RED RIDING (2009), not to be confused with Red Riding Hood. Here, he uses a lush, non-experimental style that changes colors like an abstract painter. He shoots with sufficient but undistracting symbolic flair, in a style is not terribly unlike Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper, of THE KINGS SPEECH (2010) and LES MISERABLES (2012).
That’s about all I have to say about this movie. Therein lies the problem — just like I can’t figure out what Hawking’s scientific contributions are, I can’t quite figure out why this film embarks on its third act so impassively. It feels like it lets its foot off the accelerator and just coasts to the finish. It’s a beautiful, endearing, inspiring film that just seems to fade out of sight of our emotions. I wanted to fall in love with this movie, but as the credits rolled, I just slumped in my seat, liking it like a sister.
CUT TO THE CHASE — This somewhat touching, somewhat inspiring biography of Stephen Hawking, as told by his first wife, starts out like a big hit, but imperceptibly relaxes its grasp from your heart and your mind, and thus is well worth a matinee or a date on discount day, but somehow isn’t quite worth the full ticket price.
WORTH SPENDING THEATER BUX? — MOSTLY WORTH IT.
FILMAPINOS’ FILM TIPS — DAVID THEWLIS — Known in recent years as the dependable, loving, compassionate, supportive companion and mentor, as in his Harry Pooter films, SEVEN YEARS IN TIBET (1997), KINGDOM OF HEAVEN (2005), Thewlis initially got famous in NAKED (1993), playing Johnny, one of the most captivating bastards in modern cinema, an intellectual, narcissistic, couch-surfing rapist who rants into the camera without taking a breath. Both funny and repellant, it’s worth it.
As 18th century French writer Bernard De Fontenelle almost said, the greatest obstacle to enjoying movies is to expect too much. So go watch something good, then meet us back here next week.
(Chris and Greg are a couple of regular Filipino-American guys who love and study movies. Chris is the Gen Xer who has dabbled in acting and screenwriting, and has a Ph.D in Psychology. Greg is the baby boomer 20 years senior to Chris, who has dabbled in screenwriting and freelance journalism, and has three degrees. Chris and Greg are friends and co-workers dedicated to their day jobs working for Uncle Sam.)