The Theory of Everything

DIR: James Marsh • WRI: Anthony McCarten • PRO: Tim Bevan, Lisa Bruce, Eric Fellner, Anthony McCarten • DOP: Benoît Delhomme • ED: Jinx Godfrey • DES: John Paul Kelly • MUS: Jóhann Jóhannsson • CAST: Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Tom Prior

The due note to make to oneself prior to a screening of The Theory of Everything is that it is first-and-foremost an adaptation of Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, the memoir of one Jane Wilde Hawking, ex-wife of Stephen, and played with gentle enthuse by Felicity Jones in this year’s first hum-dinger, give-me-an-Oscar biopic. It is not, by any stretch, an attempt to adapt or even mildly document the theoretical physics of Stephen Hawking but rather to angle into his complicated family life a representation that appropriates unconditional love rather than didactic sympathy. This is a film that proudly depicts a life it considers nothing short of wonderful, which is an altogether pleasant surprise in the all-too-predictable mirage-like jungle of violin-screeching would-be biopics that yearn for sympathy above admiration, a quality that I, as an audience member, would, with the odd exception, personally necessitate of any subject considered worthy of a biopic.

The story begins in a rather dull manner, with Eddie Redmayne’s Hawking peddling metal giddily through the campus of Cambridge University in sequence that could be dropped into Chariots of Fire as easily. As a matter of fact everything progresses in a business-as-usual fashion until Stephen’s diagnosis with motor neuron disease, which is a pity considering that which is remarkable about the man commenced somewhat before this but forgivable considering the source material and emotional drive of the narrative.

The film’s greatest strengths are Eddie Redmayne, Jóhann Jóhannsson’s score, Benoît Delhomme cinematography and, at risk of crowding the list of highlights, one must credit James Marsh’s helming of the project entire, which echoes his previous Oscar-winning effort, Man on Wire, in a most joyful manner by presenting Professor Hawking as a man who’s physically the yin to that films uber-athlete’s (tightrope walker Phillipe Petit) yang and yet a kindred spirit in terms of sheer zest for life and experience.

Any plaudits thrown the way of this film, however, should, and will, land at the feet of Eddie Redmayne and the towering, joyous, magnetic performance he delivers to dwarf even the mighty David Thewlis, who here barely registers as Hawking’s Cambridge supervisor. Redmayne gives his body and soul to the character, in particular his eyes and hands, and it is the goods he delivers that allow the story to function well around the script’s driving theme; that the belief that everyone and everything has a place (the romantic application of the titular Theory of Everything that Hawking purportedly worked for most of his life), when applied to oneself has the ability to fill in even the most seemingly hopeless potential pits of despair. This is, above all, a life-affirming film on an almost spiritual level, something one feels Richard Dawkins would admonish were anyone to ever consider him worthy of a biopic.

The snags in the story, however inevitable, are rather course. The action moves along far too predictably to stand out as memorable, with some moments practically written around a template of Oscar-baiting schmaltz. The story lacks any real reference to any physics whatsoever, which comes across as a tad disrespectful to the audience this film will attract, namely one interested in the life of one of history’s most renowned physicists and, once again, as these stories are wont to do, everyone featuring is far too pretty and polished to care for on a realistic level. Overall though, the good moments outweigh the bad and this is by no means a trying way to spend a couple of hours indoors though not one you’re likely to remember a great deal of.

 

Donnchadh Tiernan


12A (See IFCO for details)
123 minutes.
The Theory of Everything
is released 2nd January 2015.

The Theory of Everything  – Official Website

 

Share

Cinema Review: Breathe In

2038688810

 

DIR: Drake Doremus • WRI: Drake Doremus, Ben York Jones • PRO: Steven M. Rales, Mark Roybal, Jonathan Schwartz, Andrea Sperling • DOP: John Guleserian • ED: Jonathan Alberts  DES: Katie Byron • CAST: Guy Pearce, Felicity Jones, Amy Ryan, Mackenzie Davis

 
Drake Droemus’ Like Crazy was the toast of Sundance 2011, with the film and star Felicity Jones scooping the Grand and Special Jury Prizes respectively. Like Crazy was praised for mixing an extremely naturalistic approach to dialogue with a classically romcom sort of plot. Almost all the dialogue was improvised, leaving the film heavy on charm but light on plot and character development. Droesmus’ latest film, also starring Jones, is a little more scripted and a lot more ambitious. The plot is, once again, by numbers, and the pressure is on the players and the cinematography to make the film the harrowing mood piece it wants to be.

Keith Reynolds (Guy Pearce) is a music teacher suffering from a standard case of wasted ambition. As a youth, he tried to make it as a musician in New York City. Once his daughter Lauren (Mackenzie Davis) was born he had to abandon that dream, and now he’s more or less settled. Then a British accent arrives in the form of 18-year-old exchange student Sophie (Jones). She’s actually staying in the Reynolds’ houshold, a remarkably uncontrived-seeming contrivance, and breakfasts etc. get fraught and whispery. Keith’s wife Megan collects cookie jars; she also fails to understand her husband’s inner life, dismissing his cello playing as a mere hobby. Sophie is a pianist, and about to face choices similar to the ones Keith faced at her age. Keith is due a mid-life crisis and it looks as though it may coincide with Sophie’s coming-of-age.

The basic plots of Like Crazy and Douchebag (Droemus’ 2010 comedy) were clichéd, almost perversely so. The former was as standard a romantic comedy as can be – beach walks, bumper car rides – with the improvised dialogue gimmick; Douchebag, an indie road movie, a sort of Sideways Greenberg with mumbling. In Breathe In, as in those two films, the organic-seeming way that little conversations unfold exists in tension with the stubborn need for plot and character development. I’m sure it’s pretty hard to even comprehend a character’s arc when you’re forced to literally make it up as you go along. This is a problem with Doremus’ films in general. Indie cinema often sacrifices plot in favour of a sort of patterning, a series of fractals; a co-operation of nuanced acting and cinematography that can sometimes give a far fuller sense of a character and atmosphere than the old three-act. But Breathe In is just too loose to make it work.

That’s not to say that the actors don’t try their hardest. Pearce is relentlessly adaptable, and he does the mumbly patois like he’s never heard the name Felicia Jollygoodfellow. Sophie is there to represent Keith’s past to him, to whisper vague profundities from the edge of the frame, but Jones’ charm goes a way towards filling up her somewhat underwritten character. We know from real life that the Keith-Sophie dynamic isn’t really a romantic one, that they usually use each other as excuses to work out, or just act out, their selfishness and immaturity. We plumb Keith’s depths fairly thoroughly and float around there for a while (and you don’t need armbands) while Sophie stays irritatingly enigmatic, Jones doing her best to define those blurred edges. She and the camera are allies in this, both bobbing around Keith as he stares out windows and fails to recover from a bad case of adolescence. John Guleserian’s cinematography is superb, all dark tones and impossibly fluid camera movements. But as the film goes on, any beauty tends to be dispersed by Keith’s increasingly manchild-ish presence.

There is, admittedly, great verisimilitude in the lack of incident and the halting dialogue. The skill with which Droemus directs improvisations is obvious and, judging by his previous efforts, hard-won. It sometimes seems as though it’s entirely up to the process of interlocution to reveal things organically; that even the actors don’t know when they’re going to drop in that bit of information that will further the plot. But the plot is the problem. American indie cinema has far too much time for the sad sack might’ve-been; I thought that Greenberg and The Squid and the Whale had stopped anyone from ever taking this sort of story seriously again, but apparently not.

Darragh John McCabe

 

98 mins
Breathe In is released on 19th July 2013

 

Share

Timothy Björklund, Emmy Award Winning Disney Director Joins Irish Animation Team, Kavaleer Productions

Timothy Bjorklund, Director at Kavaleer pictured at Kavaleer offices in the Digital Hub, Dublin.

Timothy Bjorklund, Director at Kavaleer pictured at Kavaleer offices in the Digital Hub, Dublin

Kavaleer Productions announced the appointment of Timothy Björklund as Director of their Dublin based studios. In a career that has spanned over two decades, Timothy has worked for some of Hollywood’s biggest and brightest names in animation and film production. Björklund, a native of San Francisco, began drawing cartoons the day he was given his first box of crayons. Commenting on why he decided to become a professional animator, Tim said:

‘I saw my first Betty Boop cartoon when I was 16 and thought it was the most fantastic thing my eyeballs had ever looked at. I knew I had to make cartoons after that.’

Björklund, a two-time Emmy award winner (Outstanding Animation Category) for his work on Disney’s hit TV series, Teachers Pet, trained in Animation and Film Graphics at California Institute of the Arts before getting his first job in 1984 as an Assistant Animator with Colossal Pictures. Four years later he was directing. Fast forward to 2011 where he directed the Nickelodeon Jr. series, Olivia, at Brown Bag Films-there Tim met future Kavaleer Producer Jackie Leonard who suggested he re-cross the pond and join the team. Björklund said:

‘When Jackie told me about this very cool new project we are working on, which I can’t mention by the way, and I saw the artwork, I jumped at it. The artists at Kavaleer are very talented and they have built an international reputation in the industry as being one of the most savvy and talented studios on the block. Here at Kavaleer there’s a real culture of creativity and fun, everybody has a great sense of wit. I hear a lot of laughter every day, which is nice.’

Speaking about his appointment, Björklund, true to the culture of ‘fun and wit’ at the Kavaleer studios stated:

‘This ain’t my first rodeo, as they say. I’ve directed several series and a feature so I don’t get rattled very often, plus the animators, designers and production people at Kavaleer are so good at what they do that I spend most of my day just stamping APPROVED on everything. Once in a while I have to come up with some incredibly genius idea, but that’s pretty rare – thank God.’

Following Kavaleer’s announcement of 30 jobs in 2012, the animation company’s Irish and International audience can expect the launch of several shows and Kavaleer apps this year. When asked about what to expect from Kavaleer Productions in 2012, Tim, who now divides his time between the US and Ireland added:

‘While I am continuing to work on that ‘top secret’ project that brought me back here to Ireland the studio is very busy at the moment with the launch of two new fantastic shows, BedHeads and So Mortified over the next two months. They both look great and I would love to have the time to work on them too.’

Share

Cemetery Junction

Cemetery Junction

DIR/WRI: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant • PRO: Sue Baden-Powell, Ricky Gervais, Charlie Hanson, Stephen Merchant • DOP: Remi Adefarasin • ED: Valerio Bonelli • DES: Anna Higginson • CAST: Christian Cooke, Tom Hughes, Jack Doolan, Felicity Jones

Those who despaired at Ricky Gervais’ previous almost-a-good-movie The Invention of Lying felt a tad more comfortable at the re-instatement of Stephen Merchant as co-conspirator for Cemetery Junction. The force that brought us endless nights of TV chuckles would surely transcend the banality of Gervais’ previous attempts at big-screen triumph, and create a movie worth watching. That they chose not to wallow in past glories and simply create a big-screen comedy in the lines of The Office et al shows a maturing of comedic and artistic creativity that can only mean bigger and better things to come.

Cemetery Junction is not a masterpiece, and nor is it original in either concept or execution. Small-town ruffians hoping to leave their estates, and transcend their ordinary beginnings to leave their mark on the world, is well-trodden ground. However, it has all the seeds of promise and enough entertainment combined with quality scripting and acting to make it an eminently watchable movie. The script is obviously a labour of love, and revisits the scenes of Gervais’ earlier commentary on getting caught (and run over) in the treadmill of life; Reading. Here we meet Freddie, Bruce and Snork, each playing standard roles of 1970’s inert youth – apart from Freddie, who has been employed recently as a life insurance salesman. Freddie (Christian Cooke) works for Mr. Kendrick, played with bastardly delight by Ralph Fiennes, a man who once lived in the dead-end titular Cemetery Junction, but has ‘made good’. Freddie at first aspires to his lifestyle, but begins to question it all as he is faced with his boss’s ghost-like wife (Emily Watson) and enthusiastically mercenary protégé Mike (Matthew Goode). Into the mix also enters old-flame Julie, who also happens to be both Mr. Kendrick’s daughter and fiancée to the dismissive Mike. Whilst Freddie struggles with the question of what to do with his life, not wanting to end up in the factory like his Dad (played by Gervais) or best friend Bruce, matters begin to come to a head of their own volition. Bruce is a fiery young rebel, achingly angry at everything around him – Tom Hughes plays the role perfectly, a fantastic mix of Francis Begbie and Russell Brand, and brings heart to an otherwise stale role. Indeed, the acting lifts a very good script into sounding great – though there are jarring moments as an obvious ‘Gervais-ism’ is spoken by Fiennes or others, drawing attention to the strings behind the story.

The music jollies everything along – as you would expect from a soundtrack of the ’70s – and the bright story and brighter visuals make it a real feel-good movie. Whilst lacking in originality, it makes up for it in spades by delivering a smile-inducing film braced with chuckles, and surprisingly tender scenes. Tom Hughes in particular brings a depth to his role that may not have been immediately visible on paper. His interaction with his alcoholic father, a brilliantly understated performance by Francis Magee, catches you short in the middle of laughing, almost reaching the kitchen-sink realism of customary factory-life fare, and certainly leaving a lump in your throat.

Whilst not the magnum opus we might have expected from this pairing, it is a very solid foundation for better things. Cracks might be visible, but hopefully these will be patched up for future ventures, and we will continue to see great things from this pairing. Though lacking in freshness and grating at times, Cemetery Junction is nonetheless a truly enjoyable piece of work – a by-the-book feel-good movie that delivers on giggles, if not on story.

Sarah Griffin
(See biog here)

Rated 15A (see IFCO for details)

Cemetary Junction is released 16th April 2010

Cemetary Junction – Official Website

Share