The Theory of Everything – Blu-ray Review

The Theory of Everything 2

Film
Despite my long-held admiration for Felicity Jones and endless praise for the film I somehow managed to miss The Theory of Everything when it was in cinemas. Perhaps I was annoyed at having to share Jones with the rest of the general public or, more likely, nobody wanted to go and see the film with me knowing that I’d be slack-jawed throughout.

The Theory of Everything follows the romance of Stephen and Jane Hawking (Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones) from their first meeting at University and through their marriage as Stephen slowly becomes more and more dependant on Jane thanks to the onset of motor neurone disease. Tellingly most coverage of the film has focussed on the acting; to some degree on Jones’ performance as the ever-burdened wife but mostly on Redmayne and his brutal portrayal of a man slowly losing control of his body.

The praise for Redmayne is certainly well deserved as he audibly and physically transforms himself throughout the film from a sprightly young student to a wheelchair-bound professor. Most importantly what Redmayne manages to do is maintain the spark and personality that is such a vital part of the real Stephen Hawking. While he may end the film sitting almost immobile in a wheelchair Redmayne’s Stephen never loses his energy. Alongside Redmayne Jones brilliantly plays a woman not just dealing with raising two young children while coping with a demanding husband, but also shows the pain of a deeply religious woman whose husband does not respect her beliefs.

Together Redmayne and Jones portray a couple deeply in love who find their relationship straining when one loses their physical capabilities and the other struggles to find the emotional strength to carry on. Neither are passed off as saints as they both show signs of selfishness and weakness as their love for one another stumbles. It should definitely be noted that this is not a film about a science but a film about love. And while we’re at it, as a great narrator once said, this is not a love story; this is a story about love.

The film is undoubtedly moving and is as good as it is simply because of its strong lead performances; failing to truly wow with its script or direction. As I look back on the film I find I am left with a sense that some of the less loving emotions between Jane and Stephen may have been watered down. Their marriage was far from perfect, understandably considering the circumstances, and the lack of real anger in an otherwise emotionally open film felt suspect. Luckily the actors are skilled enough to distract you from second guessing while you watch the film itself.

These quibbles aside The Theory of Everything is a great showcase for two young British talents, though I suspect they have better films left in their careers. A film worth watching, just maybe not worth watching twice.

(But only just)
The Theory of Everything 1

Extras
This being a period British film looking at people and emotions rather than explosions and special effects the extras on the Blu-ray are limited. What you get are a good number of deleted scenes and a brief documentary Becoming the Hawkings focussing on Redmayne and Jones preparing for their roles.

As far as I can tell the DVD has no special features. The horror!

The Theory of Everything is available now on DVD and Blu-ray.

My Week With Marilyn – Review

Before we get onto the film I’d like to tell you a story about how I found the Phoenix Picturehouse in Oxford. Standing in line at the Odeon we noticed that the cinema wasn’t even showing My Week With Marilyn, clearly we were at the wrong Odeon. At this moment two women in the queue abandoned the cinema with one saying to their friend, “there’s still time to catch Marilyn.” Presuming that they meant the film and that they were heading for t’other Odeon we stalked them, darting from tree to lamppost to remain unseen. After a longer than expected stealth walk the two women lead us to a Picturehouse we didn’t realise existed. I love a good Picturehouse and this was no exception: lovely décor and sitting on the back row we had enough leg room to do the can-can had the need arisen. Lovely cinema. ANECDOTE OVER

My Week With Marilyn covers one week of production of the Lawrence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) directed The Prince and the Showgirl, as the star Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) clashes with her director and finds an ally in 3rd assistant director Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne). The much-disputed facts come from the memoirs of the real life Colin Clark so the film takes on a very subjective view of events.

As the film begins we are introduced to Clark, an eager young man with a dream of working in the movies, and the family connections to make it happen. Before long he has gotten himself a job on Lawrence Olivier’s new film, a job allowing him to interact with Dame Sybil Thorndike (played with no effort needed by Dame Judi Dench) and flirt with costumer Lucy (Emma Watson at her more convincing). At this point the film is playing as a enjoyable piece of British period cinema, everyone having fun with their roles, particularly Branagh, and the sense of anticipation at the impending arrival of Monroe was shared by characters and audience alike.

When Monroe arrives everyone holds their breath; while Monroe herself could turn heads, Michelle Williams so captures her essence that it is a marvel to behold. I still can’t decide whether or not footage of the real thing was slipped in as there were moments when Williams simply became Monroe. It is more than an imitation, it is an embodiment.

Having said all that Monroe frustrated me at first, her diva-like behaviour as she was constantly late to set seemed unjustifiable and left me far from sympathetic. It was only later as Marilyn and Colin became close that I began to understand this ephemeral character. With filming stressful Marilyn starts to depend on Colin, bunking off with him and refusing to sleep without him by her side. At this point Williams is able to show the severe vulnerability of Marilyn Monroe and brought some much-needed depth to the character. At various points the script tried to veer Marilyn towards cliché but Williams always managed to steer clear.

As essentially the lead, Eddie Redmayne as Colin was not the most dynamic of characters. Rather than do anything of interest Colin only ever seemed to have things happen to him. Not terrible in itself but I feel like Redmayne has a lot more to offer than this film gave him scope for. The only other true stand-out performance alongside Williams was from Kenneth Branagh who was gleefully camped up for his role as the great Sir Lawrence Olivier. Whenever Branagh was on-screen the film was infinitely better.

While a lot of fun My Week With Marilyn doesn’t have a lot going on beneath the surface. As the epilogue tells you at the end, this week was not the most significant for either Olivier or Monroe. Perhaps it was for Colin, but I’d have rather spent more time watching the two legends go head to head and struggle to work together. Besides, how can you ever sympathise with anyone who lets Emma Watson down?

Orange Rising Star Award 2012 Nominees

This week the nominees for the 2012 Orange Rising Star Award were announced. With voting handled by the Great British Public, this is the one time we get a say on who wins a proper award. It is our duty as UK citizens and internet based film fans to have that say and vote. Let’s have a completely objective look at the nominees.

Jessica Chastain
Appearing in no less than five films this year, Chastain has burst out of nowhere to become a big upcoming presence in modern cinema. Highlights for me include Take Shelter and Coriolanus.

Eddie Redmayne
With the look of a male Gemma Arterton about him, Redmayne has only one major release this year, and it isn’t out until tomorrow. Still, having the lead role in My Week with Marilyn amongst so many British stalwarts is impressive.

Adam Deacon
A good handful of films out this year and yet the only roles I am likely to have seen Deacon in are the two separate characters he’s played on Casualty. Anuvahood did look amusing though.

Chris Hemsworth
From Home and Away to playing Thor, God of Oversized Hammers, Hemsworth has come a long way in the past four years. FUN FACT: He also did one episode of Neighbours.

Tom Hiddleston
Hiddleston is all over the shop starring in everything from comic book blockbusters to arty family dramas, from Woody Allen to The Deep Blue Sea. His face terrifies me slightly but we shouldn’t hold that against him.

Jennifer Lawrence
Lovely Jennifer Lawrence went on from her Oscar nominated performance to play Anton Yelchin’s love interest twice and to take on the role of a blue X-Person. Soon to be heading up the Next Big Franchise, Lawrence’s star is on the rise.

Felicity Jones
HELLO! No, I must remain impartial. Since getting the nod from us early last year (way before everyone else), Jones has been on a dramatic rise topped by a win at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Not bad for a Brummie.

Chris O’Dowd
After slogging away on Channel 4 since 2006, O’Dowd has hit the big screen three times in the past two years. It was his appearance in Bridesmaids which everyone actually noticed though, providing a much-needed core to a fun but messy comedy.

There are your eight nominees, who will you vote for? We are remaining totally impartial…

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