Toronto: ‘Theory of Everything’ Has the Right Formula for Oscars

Stephen Hawking drama, starring Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, gets splashy awards launch at festival

Theory of Everything Stephen Hawking Movie

Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones confidently enter the awards race with their new Stephen Hawking drama “The Theory of Everything.” The film, which premiered Sunday at the Toronto Film Festival, is already earning strong reviews and could score attention as a best picture contender and artisan categories, in addition to acting honors for Redmayne and Jones.

Based on the Jane Hawking memoir, “Theory” tells the story of Hawking (Redmayne) and his first wife (Jones), whose 25-year relationship began in the early 1960s.

It’s a classy piece from Focus Features and Working Title, directed by James Marsh (“Man on Wire”) and scripted by Anthony McCarten. All craft contributions are notable, including Johann Johannsson’s score and Benoit Delhomme’s cinematography.

Nothing is certain, though, since the fourth quarter has a lot of heavy-hitters coming up. But at this point,  it looks good for Focus, which smartly scored multiple Oscar noms last year with “Dallas Buyers Club,” including best picture.

Challenges: In many ways, “The Theory of Everything” is a formulaic triumph-over-adversity biopic. It offers reminders of “My Left Foot” and “Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (as Variety reviewer Justin Chang points out), with a little “Beautiful Mind” thrown in as well.

Assets: The tale may be familiar, but it works. The film touches on topics such as human resilience, God, time, love and thermodynamics. What’s not to like? And it has a great backstory, with Redmayne at the world premiere in Toronto talking about many months of meticulous research, which eventually paid off with the blessings of Jane and Stephen Hawking (whom everybody loves, even if they never read his book).

There are still a dozen big films that are unseen, but the best-picture race is starting to shape up. And, yes, with “The Imitation Game” and “Theory” are both in the game, meaning this could be the first year when the top race includes two biopics about British geniuses.