Knowing that nobody would want to see this movie with me and might feel awkward coming up with an excuse, I, as a benevolent friend, headed to the theater solo. “Date night!” I declared enthusiastically to my parakeets, and stopped to consider that I was going to see a rom-dram Stephen Hawking biopic. Perfect.
There were no theater beers to be had at the venue, so I bought a giant brownie and some Earl Grey. I figured mainlining sugar and caffeine would keep me awake during the film, as Matthew McConaughey does not play Stephen Hawking (but wouldn’t THAT be something). No, the cast was basically a bunch of unknown British actors and before the opening credits stopped I had come to a beautiful realization: in addition to being yet another movie mashup, The Theory of Everything is also Lifetime movie. It’s like they tried to establish a unified theory of how bad movies are made. Some observations:
Most Lifetime movies feature a bunch of hunky guys for the leading ladies to fall for and reject, but ToE serves up a gaggle of awkward geniuses gallumphing around the well-manicured lawns of Cambridge University.
As someone who’s first crush was Spock, I’m okay with all of this. In addition to cluttering up chalkboards with Calculus, these physicists fraternize (read: clutter up napkins with Calculus) in dimly-lit pubs where they make winsome-yet-minimal eye contact with the occasional group of ladies standing in the corner. This is how Stephen ends up meeting his wife, and is basically exactly the same as the beginning of A Beautiful Mind.
The future Mrs. Hawking’s outgoing personality and nerd love make it an idyllic match, and awkward Stephen cuts loose. She gets him to dance which is, like, huge– it’s like the money shot of aspergerporn.
You gotta do you
The whole “leaving someone who needs you because you need to take care of yourself” Lifetime theme (The Dive from Clausen’s Pier) takes a twist in ToE. Typically Lifetime presents a strong woman who can’t tied be down to, say, her quadriplegic boyfriend. In ToE it’s fully-Lou Gheriged Stephen Hawking who decides to run off to America with his nurse, leaving his long-suffering wife with the billion children he managed to sire. Nice move, Dr. Asshole.
He takes old wife to meet the Queen, at least.
It’s the whole movie rewinding to the first time he met old wife. Derp. We have to see Hawking’s decline in reverse; the chalk he broke during a Lou Gherig’s-onset moment is repaired in an impossible reversal of entropy, etc. Then it’s over and they slap up some “where are they now” text. Classic Lifetime plot wormhole where tons of shit happens in the last 10 minutes– montages, speaking engagements, a big ceremony where the whole audience slowly starts standing and slow clapping-to-fervid applause. That definitely happened in Mr. Holland’s Opus at least once.
Bonus: Cumberbatch comparison
On my way out of the theater I remembered that Benedict Cumberbatch played Stephen Hawking in Hawking.
I’d never heard of the new guy who plays him in ToF (Eddie Redmayne) but he definitely wins the Hawking-Off.
Cumberbatch looks straight out of Hufflepuff; soft, naive, and generally lame. Redmayne has it nailed down. Case closed.
Also, don’t see this movie.