Hawking Movie Review
Stephen Hawking proves to be an entertaining storyteller in this autobiographical documentary in which, with the help of two cowriters, he takes us on a trip through his life. It's a fascinating narrative, peppered with witty anecdotes and pithy observations. But it feels perhaps a bit too triumphant, and only rarely lets us see the man behind the famous public persona.
Hawking tells his own story, starting with his birth into an academic Oxford family and early fascination with the cosmos. He found school and university rather easy, and it wasn't until he started his PhD at Cambridge that he had his first eureka moment. It was also at this time, aged 21, when he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease and given just three years to live. But the condition developed slower than expected, so he married his girlfriend Jane and continued his studies. And over the following 50 years he has completely changed the way we understand the universe.
There are several key recurring themes here, as Hawking reveals his thoughts about science, culture and sex with humour and insight. He also lets us see his ongoing desire for recognition in his field. This is what led him to battle through the writing of his international bestseller A Brief History of Time, and also why he took a memorable guest-starring role on The Simpsons. The film recounts both experiences, as well as a hilarious TV appearance with Carrey and his friendships with everyone from Steven Spielberg to Barack Obama.
Most of this is almost overpoweringly adoring, with scenes of fans pestering him for photos and celebrities talking about his wonderful contributions to society. Indeed, he is one of the most important thinkers in human history, but it would have been nice to see the everyday man as well. We get a few hints of that through his honest thoughts on the breakdown of his two marriages. And it's fascinating to hear his own observations on his position in the cultural zeitgeist. But the filmmakers save the best for last: a wonderful sequence around his amazing appearance at the London 2012 Paralympics that celebrates not only his mental achievements but the fact that physical disability has never slowed him down.