Some actors are ruggedly handsome, while others are dashingly smooth, but Eddie Redmayne is ridiculously adorable. He’s so cute and so talented that once he grins, he can get away with anything. In The Theory of Everything he plays the brilliant English scientist Stephen Hawking, who’s led an extraodinary life while suffering from ALS, and it’s a good thing that Eddie’s onboard, to charm his way through the sorrow.
This movie is the latest installment of Noble British Heartbreak, which is a cousin to Irish Working Class Uplift, and kin to The Dreary Courage of Unemployed Welsh Coal Miners. It’s in the tradition of films like The King’s Speech, My Left Foot, Philomena or any movie in which either the Queen or the Duke of Windsor makes a cameo appearance. In The Theory of Everything, much of the action takes place at Cambridge, so there are plenty of genteel Downton Abbey/Brideshead Revisited visuals, and from the first frame, I knew that Eddie would be rushing through at least one academic courtyard, spending time in a sunlit country garden, riding a bicycle and wearing a cardigan beneath his tweed blazer. You can tell that this movie was made about people who are still alive, with attornies, because everyone behaves impeccably, and couples manage to get divorced without ever raising their voices.
Luckily, Eddie’s around to seduce us, and his russet-haired, toothy, long-jawed handsomeness manages to combine Hilary Swank with Peter Pan. Felicity Jones plays his devoted wife and caregiver, and over many decades, her wigs suggest everything from youthful flirtation through quiet middle-aged yearning. I wanted this movie to come with one of those Parental Guidance Advisories, saying “This film contains fleeting smiles, lingering glances, autumnal skies and choral music. PLEASE BE ADVISED: TEA IS SERVED.”
In The Theory of Everything, Eddie also gets to perform one of my favorite tasks, which only movie stars playing geniuses get to do. At one point, Eddie is required to stand in front of a very large blackboard, where he grabs a piece of chalk and scribbles an endless mathematical formula which will astound everyone, just like Russell Crowe’s formulas in A Beautiful Mind. For an onscreen scientist, this is the equivalent of an onscreen artist painting the Mona Lisa or an onscreen composer waking up in the middle of the night and jotting down the first few notes of the 1812 Overture. But someday I want to watch an onscreen wizard include smiley face emoticons, multiple exclamation points and stick figures having sex, all on his inspirational blackboard. Or maybe just the words Eddie+eyeglasses=Dreamboat//man-pixie would be more than enough, if you ask me.