As we come closer to the Academy Awards on February 22nd, we’ll be posting short profiles of each Best Picture nominee, attempting, in our own ways, to not only sum up what the movie is about, but why we believe it scored one of the eight coveted nominations, and why it could possibly take home the big prize come Oscar night. Enjoy!
A term I use a lot when we get into the Oscar season is that of the “Oscar-Bait” film. You know the one. It’s usually based on a true story, or an attempt at a super-contemporary story, all while tackling Important Issues. There’s sweeping orchestral music, emotionally heartfelt performances. There might be Nazis, or British people. Or people overcoming a disability. You know the one.
Hell, this should help things out…
A Beautiful Mind, The King’s Speech, The Reader, these are films that, while having some admirable qualities, are almost as by-the-numbers and formulaic as the average Hollywood summer blockbuster. _____ passing for prestige. Sometimes the Academy is smarter than the people behind the film, and are able to see the man behind the curtain pulling the strings. That’s what happened with Unbroken this year. But two films that undeniably have that “Oscar-Bait” stamp got under the radar into the Best Picture category this year. I’m here to talk about the better of those two, The Theory of Everything.
And yes, “better of two” is overcompensating the lot. The Theory of Everything for sure falls into the many pitfalls of an Oscar-Bait film. You’ve got the over-sentimental music that swells at just the right moments, not to mention the dumbing down of scientific information so it’s easily digestible to an “average movie-going audience.” That last part is quite frustrating her, in a film concerned with one of the more fascinating scientists and thinkers in the modern age, one Stephen Hawking, brought to the screen by Eddie Redmayne. And while Hawking’s science fails to be brought to the forefront, it’s the performances of Redmayne and Felicity Jones (as his first wife Jane) that elevate the film to a higher quality.
One of the deserved frontrunners for the Best Actor Oscar right now is Eddie Redmayne, whose performance is something of a transformative masterpiece, contorting his body in such a way to match that of the decaying Stephen Hawking that it makes the mind boggle. It helps that he excels in rooting all of this in a deep emotional and intellectual character in the early stages of the film, a man who can not only see greatness in the universe, but in the humans around him, as he does in Jane. Jones brings a lot of understated anger and energy to the role of Jane, a woman who feels trapped in a marriage full of love, but also full of pain, patience, and more work than she thought imaginable. Though this is all based on real events, I’ll leave what happens between the married couple for you to discover on your own. It’s tragic and life-fulfilling for the two of them.
But ultimately, Redmayne’s physical transformation is what makes this film stand out from the rest. If he is the only person from this film to win an Academy Award, it will be one well deserved. It’s unlikely that The Theory of Everything will win Best Picture, but we won’t be forgetting this depiction of Stephen Hawking anytime soon.