Thursday, September 18, 2014

"The Theory of Everything" Joins the Oscar Race After Successful Debut at TIFF

Left to right: Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones
Here's the truth. When I initially saw a trailer for director James Marsh's The Theory of Everything, I wasn't impressed. It looked like a cheap biopic of Stephen Hawking that wasn't really called for. In fact, the trailer was kind of cliche and boring. Even if Eddie Redmayne was solid in Les Miserables, he wasn't my favorite part. Yet I have been mistaken and this has become quickly a film to watch out for. After premiering at Toronto International Film Festival, the Oscar Buzz is sparking again with a surprise, out of nowhere candidate.

Upon some research, the credentials begin to look a little more impressive. For starters, Marsh directed the Best Documentary Film winner Man on Wire. For those unaware, it holds a distinct honor of being one of the few films with 100% on critics aggregate Rotten Tomatoes. It is also a rather compelling film that speaks to the post-9-11 mindset of achieving something profound. There is a reason that the documentary continues to strive. It has a very cinematic narrative, but is a real life event that seems so unreal that the feat is made all the more impressive. For that, Marsh already receives a raised eyebrow.

However, The Theory of Everything is a harder sell. For starters, this is up against another tough competitor The Imitation Game, which is possibly even a more high profile biopic. Also, this is coming a year after the flops of Jobs and The Fifth Estate in which geniuses got shafted with mediocre depictions that flailed at the box office. My hopes likewise for 2014's two high profile biopics didn't seem all that enthusiastic. Also, in the grand scheme of things, Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game) seemed likelier to be nominated before Redmayne. Also, how interesting could Hawking's life be compared to somebody who worked on an important mission during World War II? Something had to add up.

Yet out of TIFF came this film that shot Redmayne into the stratosphere. Suddenly, he is a top contender according to almost every report imaginable. On top of that, the film seems destined for a Best Picture nod as well as potential Best Director and Best Actress slots for Marsh and Felicity Jones. While the Oscar race is premature and barely getting started, the enthusiasm surrounding the film is astonishing. Who knows what will happen next. However, it must be a testament that this film has so much acclaim despite having a very unappealing and basic subject. 

Here's the trailer:

There's little doubt that the sappy music doesn't help at all. However, upon knowing what the general buzz is and applying some thought, things begin to make more sense on why it is getting acclaim. Redmayne's embodiment is rather uncanny. Considering how bright eyed he was in Les Miserables, the transformation into a seemingly dull person is uncanny. He feels shy. The latter half of the trailer even sells the potential physicality in which Redmayne has to be locked down to a chair and speak through a voice box. It is a physical transformation that the Oscars tend to award. That was, until rather recently. When The Sessions failed to get John Hawkes a Best Actor nomination for playing an iron lung-bound individual, it seemed like physical limitations were out. Now it was about the big sacrifices and loss of sanity. To say the least, Matthew McConaughey won Best Actor for Dallas Buyers Club because of the weight loss, similarly to Jared Leto in Best Supporting Actor.

There are chances that this film will succeed in getting things across. A lot of people are aware of Hawking and his work. He's even become an international icon with a very familiar appearance to most. Also, if the performance is reliant on him having to deal with using the voice box, there are chances that his silent performance can win some hearts. However, the trailers continually don't do the film any justice and sell it more as this big romantic story that lacks any deeper substance. I want to be more invested in this film, but The Theory of Everything only survives on word of mouth at this point. Still, it will be one discussed time and again, so keep an eye out for further conversation as things progress.

Will Eddie Redmayne get an Oscar nomination? Will James Marsh get his second Oscar, this time for Best Director? Is there any supporting actors who stand a chance of a nomination?

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