Friday, April 3, 2015

I have a feeling that wasn't everything...


Do you remember early 2002, when a certain “generic” biopic won the Oscar over the mega-popular one-two punch of ‘Moulin Rouge!’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring’?  It was inevitable, we all saw it coming (or we should have) and yet the months that followed brought scorn and resentment over the Oscar winner, scorn and resentment that are still heaped upon its back.  You see, I liked ‘A Beautiful Mind’.  I still do.  It’s a simple made film that follows some basic tropes that all biopics tend to fall into, and yet it was engaging and enjoyable and littered with interesting and beautiful performances.  Still, it’s a film that can be taken for granted and dismissed as ‘by the books’ and, as I noted above, generic.

I never truly realized how good of a movie ‘A Beautiful Mind’ was until I sat down to watch ‘The Theory of Everything’.



It had the comparisons running alongside it all year, many calling this 2014’s ‘A Beautiful Mind’, and it was clear why, for both films were essentially stories about brilliant men saddled with a disability (one mental, the other physical) who were saved by the love of a woman.  The difference is that ‘A Beautiful Mind’ actually has something to say.  While ‘The Theory of Everything’ is quite beautiful to look at and has a stunning (albeit obvious and at times distracting) score, but it also doesn’t tell us anything about the man in question, throws out jargon no one is going to pay attention to, and features two performances that are (while technically accurate and, at least for one, physically outstanding) quite boring and empty.

If I knew nothing about Stephen Hawking before watching this, I’d know nothing more now, other than the fact that he got sick, fathered kids and didn’t believe in God (or did he?).

‘The Theory of Everything’ seems pretty content with putting flashy filters all over every scene and regurgitating depictions of grief through showy edits (that call into question just how involved Redmayne’s ‘transformation’ really was) but never really settles down to tell us the story of this man, what he’s thinking, who he is…inside…apart from his crippling disability.  I understand that explaining to us Hawking’s lifework would have been hard, and it would have gone over many heads, but the point of a biopic isn’t really to explain a profession but an individual, and I feel as though Hawking, the man, is never cracked open for us.  We know nothing about him outside of the fact that he’s smart and awkward.  We learn a great deal more about his wife, Jane, but sadly Felicity Jones is so dreadfully dull in her delivery that she may as well have not even existed.

At least when ‘A Beautiful Mind’ ended (which, by the way, is nowhere near as generic as it’s accused of being) I felt like I knew this man and I knew his wife and I felt their love and their support and I felt his pain and I felt his growth.  When ‘The Theory of Everything’ ended I felt nothing but the urge to eject the DVD. 

But it’s pretty, you know, visually.


As far as Redmayne and his Oscar win are concerned, I get it.  I mean, from a physical aspect he really goes all out there and commands every movement, every physical deteriorating moment.  Like I said, some of the flashy edits call into question how far he went or if his performance was sliced, diced and spliced to create something that looked more incredible than it was; but regardless, he is convincing as a man suffering from ALS.  What he’s not convincing as is as a man.  There is nothing behind those eyes, no real character to explore.  It’s all surface, nothing genuine here.  Charlie Cox is the only person who really shines here.  Felicity Jones has the most fleshed out character but, like, she does nothing with it.

I wanted to like this.  I mean, it was getting such a thrashing from so many people who were mad that Michael Keaton lost the Oscar, and so I was hoping that it was just vitiral and nothing really warranted.  Yeah, this movie is just empty and that bleeds into every aspect of the film.  Even the cinematography is overtly showy, pretty with no real substance, and the score, which is genuinely beautiful, is used to death in a way that makes it feel cheap; like it has nothing to say.


That’s the problem here; this film has nothing to say.

C-

36 comments:

  1. Interesting review Fisti :) It's hard to disagree with you about the film not having much to say. I think it's great you mentioned Charlie Cox - he was really great but kind of got overlooked :)

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    1. Cox was my favorite part, for sure.

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  2. I liked this one more than you did and thought both Redmayne and Felicity Jones were good. I saw limited marketing for the movie, so the way I understood this was it was about the life of Stephen and Jane Hawking, not exactly a full biopic of Stephen Hawking. In comparison to A Beautiful Mind, that movie really focused more on John Nash and his prognosis rather than his personal life. In Theory's case, it was the opposite, hence the lack of focus on Hawking's work and his personal struggles. The movie was also based on Jane Hawking's memoir, so maybe that would explain the lack of content regarding Stephen Hawking as an individual.

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    1. I'll give them good, but not great...although I wonder if either were truly good. A Beautiful Mind, for me, was less about Nash's work and more about his mental decline, but it laced it with such a powerful depiction of his relationships that it all felt real and honest. Here, I didn't feel any real connection to anyone...everything felt surface, but never grounded. When things transpire in the end and Hawkings leaves his wife for his nurse it doesn't really effect me like it should because I never really felt like there was anything special between Stephen and Jane. I just wish that I walked away from this feeling like I knew something about him other than that he was sick.

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  3. Great review! I'm bummed you didn't like this more though, I really did. Even though it was a typical biopic (same with The Imitation Game) it was still a very enjoyable watch for me and I had the ugliest cry face during that "I tried my best" scene.

    The UGLIEST!

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    1. I'll tell you this, and I've admitted this hundreds of times, but I cry ALL THE TIME about everything...like, that's my thing...I just cry. This movie should have made me cry, so maybe I'm just really bitter that it didn't.

      Although, I came close during the letter-square scene. Very close...but no tears fell...not one...and I was pissed about that.

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  4. ...but it's NOT a biopic! Not really. It's a film about a marriage, not one person or the other. And on that level, I think it succeeds quite brilliantly. Yeah, the relentless gold filters in the cinematography are really pushing it, but it's so sensitively written and performed, and far more difficult/interesting than films like this usually are.

    But of course, personal circumstance counts for a lot, and when I saw this I saw it with my (now ex-)partner who had been diagnosed with end-stage renal failure three and a half years prior. I had basically become a glorified home health aid, and this was so true to everything we had been through - even though the disease was different - that we were both in tears long before the end. I so identified with Jane in many moments and thought Felicity Jones gave a great subtle performance (it's easily the best thing she's done). So many of the scenes between them are incredibly tricky, and when I read the screenplay I saw that they're quite wonderfully open to interpretation. But Jones and Redmayne (who is just tremendous - the Oscar is deserved even if I wish it had gone to Keaton) play them so brilliantly, with such specificity. Maybe it's because I've been there, but I saw so much truth - harsh, painful, deep truth - pulsating throughout all their scenes, which are really the heart of the film. Their final scene together ("I have loved you...") absolutely wrecked me. So beautiful. But again, circumstances being what they were, I was likely in the tank for this one before I even saw it.

    I warned everyone I talked to about this to not go in expecting a film about Stephen Hawking, otherwise they were bound to be disappointed. Because the film really isn't about him. And sure enough, all those who saw it thinking it was a Stephen Hawking biopic didn't like it nearly as much as those who knew it was about Stephen and Jane's marriage.

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    1. First, I want to address your personal circumstance. You are right, those color our interpretation and reaction to things, as they should. Film is supposed to speak to us, and some films speak to us much deeper because of what we've been through. I'm sorry that you felt that pain, and yet I'm almost happy for you, because there is this incredible feeling of understanding that can wash over us when we watch something that speaks so closely to our heart, even if it is painful.

      That all said, I didn't even feel like this represented his marriage well, which is why I said that it didn't get into the heart of who he was. I mean, even if we're to look at this as a character study instead of a biopic, and I'm all for that, it just doesn't work for me. I felt like this said nothing about Hawking, the man, and it needed that to make the depiction of his marriage work. Jane was fleshed out more, as Stephen really became one long cliched depiction of disability, but even Jane felt unfulfilled as a character.

      But that's just how I saw it.

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    2. I think you have a point, insomuch as Stephen is pretty much presented as his disability, and it's difficult to suss out the arc of the character since he can't move. For me it worked, and I appreciated the subtlety of it. But I can see where one would want more, and again, personal circumstances probably made me more susceptible to this one than the average person.

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    3. Yeah, but that is why film is so great...for it touches everyone differently so that every film is something to someone.

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  5. Excellent review. I am not a big fan of A Beautiful Mind, mostly because I found the portrayal of mental illness so utterly implausible. But it was well made, and it had heart.

    I have been reading mixed reviews for this movie. I will still watch it at some point, but I'll keep my expectations modest.

    Based on your review, it sounds like a case of style over substance. I expect that I'll appreciate the performances, though.

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    1. Yes, style over substance for sure.

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  6. I haven't seen this movie yet but have only heard good reviews on it. Yours is the first negative one I have come across... Very interesting perspective. I shall keep it in mind, but at the same time, let the movie try to impress me;)

    I absolutely love A Beautiful Mind. And have seen it countless times. I mean Russell Crowe >>>>>>>>

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    1. I had read a few reviews indicating that the film was really an actors showcase and nothing more, and so I was kind of going in thinking that it would be low on actual story told...but I wasn't expecting it to be so hollow.

      But I wholly encourage you to check it out for yourself!

      And I have a feeling we will be great friends, judging by your comment on Crowe...who happens to be one of my absolute favorite actors!

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    2. A friend of mine wants to see it with me, so hopefully we'll do that soon. I'll let you know what I think of it;)

      Oh wonderful!! We'll probably agree on other actors too...

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    3. Can't wait to hear your thoughts.

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  7. By the way, I found your blog through Feeling Fuzzier. I am always on the look-out for review blogs to follow...

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    1. I'm glad you stopped by, and I hope you continue to! I'm like you in that I'm always on the lookout for a new blog to explore, so I'll be sure to stop by your neck of the woods too!

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    2. Oh I'm sure I will. And yes, feel free to stop by any time.

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    3. Another blog you should check out is the first review blog I ever followed...

      http://www.scribblesscriptsandsuch.blogspot.com

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    4. I'll do that! Thanks for the suggestion.

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  8. Well I'm glad to see it wasn't just me who was underwhelmed by this. I happened to watch Birdman, Imitation Game and this all this week and I have to say I was the least impressed with Redmayne of any of the three. I'd already seen Carell in Foxcatcher and thought he didn't belong in the nominees. I didn't really care for Birdman overall but thought Keaton was terrific, he would have been my pick to win. I enjoyed Imitation the most as an entertainment and thought Cumberbatch, who I'm not overly fond of, did an excellent job. One of the things I liked most about their performances was that they weren't reliant on a gimmick, not that Hawking's illness is a gimmick for him but for an actor it's something to hang their work on and beyond Redmayne's physical presentation of that I wasn't moved by his performance.

    Likewise I got nothing from Felicity Jones and kept wishing they had hired Sally Hawkins for the role. Aside from the performances the film did feel very by the numbers though it was pretty to look at. It also killed me that Emily Watson was in the cast as Jane's mother for two reasons. First she's EMILY FREAKING WATSON and the best they could do with her is this throwaway part and secondly that she's playing the mother of a grown woman with kids. The second is just perception on my part since she's 48 so obviously old enough for that to make sense, it was just a jolt but she should be playing leads.

    I would agree that A Beautiful Mind was better and Redmayne's work is nowhere close to Crowe's brilliant performance.

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    1. Yes to everything, including the Watson comment...I mean...why is she not a bigger star? UGH, I weep for what her career should have been.

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  9. Oh..Thank you! I could not have said it any better myself!! I watched this film the night before the Oscars and I was so underwhelmed. I kept feeling like he was going to say "Moley, moley, moley" because he looked so much like the you Austin Powers to me. I felt the performance was not heartfelt and I had no empathy for the main character at all. If you want to experience great acting you must see (if you haven't already) Daniel Day-Lewis in "My Left Foot". I am not as harsh on the Jones for the portrayal of the wife but it was not Oscar worthy in any way. I had no care in the world about these people. I also thought that, in real life, this woman is quite the strong woman who married a man who would become totally dependant on her and after years of marriage I heard he left her for his nurse. It was softened in the film and it's based on his wife's book but I could not invest anything into this at all. I enjoyed Birdman more because Michael Keaton made you feel for the character. This might have been a better film if the wife was THE main character and what she was going through. All they did was just touch on it in a superficial way. Glad we see the same in this flick

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    1. Oh, what could have been! This was just a shallow missed opportunity for sure.

      LOL...moley!

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  10. I'm a little more positive towards the film (B) and the lead performances, but I'm basically with you on this. We don't really get to know Stephen at all in the film. Ugh, that Oscar win still stings.

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    1. Yeah, I mean...this could have been so much more.

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  11. I didn't think Jones merited the nomination but I liked her more than you did, especially compared to Redmayne - brilliant line there about him being so empty, truly there was really nothing believable in his portrayal of, you know, human man. That scene where he imagines he picks up the pen was so laughable, but the one that really got me laughing was the rampart misogyny depicted by whatever ass wrote that script when he has an episode in the opera while his wife is with another man. Disgusting, as they then tried to rationalize his affair.

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    1. OMG! I meant to mention that awful opera scene...it was SO manipulative and in such a gaudy way.

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    2. I was seriously disgusted. It's like, sure you poor man have an affair with your nurse but you whore! you were in a tent with another man! and your poor sick husband is a saint!

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    3. Yeah, I didn't like the way that the fact that he leaves his wife after she cared for him and was there for him ALL THOSE YEARS forsaking her own happiness was treated...like...let's dwell all over her longing for another man and pretty much condemn her for wanting happiness and...oh look...movies almost over..."yeah, he leaves her...but he let her meet the Queen!!!"

      Puke.

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  12. I'm completely bipolar with this movie. I loved it the first time, then its luster on me wore off and I wasn't as fond of it. Then I watched it a second time and liked it again, but once again, I don't care for it. Especially after the Best Actor incident. While I do think that Redmayne and Jones did a very fine job, all Redmayne really did was mimic and I don't think Jones merited a nod over the likes of Jenny Slate, Essie Davis, or even Gugu Mbatha-Raw.

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    1. I don't even want to talk about the god awful ridiculousness that was the snubbing of Gugu Mbatha-Raw last year. Like, not a brighter star was born last year...brilliant and Oscar worthy (WIN WORTHY) in two very different films and yet snubbed for the vanilla absence-performance that was Felicity Jones. Gross!

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    2. I don't blame you. Never underestimate the coattail effect.

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    3. Better coats have been tailed. That was just...wrong.

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