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Meet the Contenders: Felicity Jones "The Theory of Everything"

Each weekend a profile on a just-opened Oscar contender. Here's abstew on this weekend's new release, THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING which has potential to be a very big awards player.

Felicity Jones as Jane Hawking in The Theory of Everything

Best Actress

Born: Felicity Jones was born October 17, 1983 in Bournville on the Southside of Birmingham, England

The Role: The Academy Award-winning director of the documentary Man on Wire, James Marsh, takes the helm of this extraordinary true story based on the memoir Travelling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen by Jane Hawking, the first wife of acclaimed Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking. The film follows the over 30 year relationship of the two. Starting with their early days as doctorate students at England's famed University of Cambridge through Stephen's diagnosis with motor neurone disease (now more commonly known as ALS, it was recently in the headlines this year for the foundation's Ice Bucket Challenge used to raise money for research), the film chronicles the ups and downs of their marriage as Jane's goals take a backseat to Stephen's care. 

Jones met with the real Jane several times in preparation. She has said that what most impressed her was how the ladylike, petite Jane was able to convey such strength and that's what she wanted to capture the most with her performance. Jones read Jane's book over 6 times as research (always having it close to her on set) and studied with a vocal coach to emulate the real Jane's voice.  

Previous Brushes With Oscar: After winning a Special Jury prize at Sundance for her performance in 2011's Like Crazy, Jones received early Oscar buzz that fizzled out upon the film's release. It really only amounted to Breakthrough awards from various critics groups. So far the only films she's appeared in that have received an Oscar nomination were both for Best Costume Design (Julie Taymor's 2010 adaptation of The Tempest and last year's The Invisible Woman). The latter also brought her a British Independent Spirit nomination for Best Actress. It was her second nomination from them having been nominated in the Supporting category for Albatross (2011).

What Critics Are Saying:

As Jane must sometimes literally carry her husband, so does Ms. Jones carry the movie, knitting her brows, setting her jaw and rationing tears and tremors of emotion with proper English discretion.

-A.O. Scott The New York Times

Helping considerably is having a performer as strong and subtle as Jones, memorable in "The Invisible Woman" and "Like Crazy," to work off of in a scenario that charts a fraught and complicated relationship.

-Kenneth Turan Los Angeles Times

In a much less showy role, Jones does her own heartbreaking work as the woman who dedicated her life to loving and caring for Hawking. With nuance and grace, she summons the pain and frustration that were by-products of that commitment.

-Chris Nashawaty Entertainment Weekly

Jane is an ardent supporter and caretaker of her husband, but in Jones’s hands she is not without her own distinct humanity...There is something almost preternaturally wise about Jones, a quality that works beautifully in this story about smart people doing difficult things.

-Richard Lawson Vanity Fair

My Take: They say that behind every successful man, there is a woman and in The Theory of Everything the woman, always being in danger of becoming a footnote to the man's legacy, is allowed her voice as well. The film is really not so much about Stephen Hawking: Genius, but Stephen and Jane Hawking: A story of opposites that somehow overcame. From the start the two seem like an odd match. She's in the arts studying medieval poetry and a devote Christian that attends church every Sunday, while his study of science and black holes is much too practical to account for the existence of God. But Jones and Redmayne sell the attraction and its in their early scenes that Jones excels the most, especially when Jane finds out about Stephen's condition. Watching as the man she loves struggles to even walk, Jones stoically tries to hold her composure while still allowing the heartbreak of the situation to fully register in her face. But as the film progresses over decades, and Jones looks and feels as young as she did from the beginning without the maturity that comes with years of struggle, there's a sameness that starts to creep in. And the script seems not to dig in as fully into moments as you want (especially when Charlie Cox appears in an intriguing threesome relationship that could've been an entire movie itself). But Jones is the emotional heart to Redmayne's technical brain, allowing the audience to connect with the film through both parts. 

Fun Fact: In 2011, Jones was named as the face of British fashion label Burberry and appeared in their Fall/Winter campaign. Who else has been the face of the brand? Oh, just her Theory of Everything co-star, Eddie Redmayne, who appeared in ads in 2008 and in the Spring/Summer 2012 campaign

Probability of a Nomination: Likely. While most of the initial praise has been for Redmayne's transformative performance (some already claiming that his Best Actor win is a done deal), Jones, like the steadfast character she plays, will find herself with even more supporters as the Oscar season continues - waiting patiently as voters realize that Redmayne's performance is elevated by his equally strong companion. And if there's one female staple the Academy loves, it's the long-suffering, devoted wife. (Just ask Jennifer Connelly and Marcia Gay Harden.) Usually regulated to the supporting category, this time, thanks to the source material, the part is given equal lead status. Jones has been trying to breakthrough for a couple years now. It seems very likely that this will be the year that Oscar finally takes notice.  

"The Theory of Everything" opened in select cinemas yesterday, November 7 and expands later in the year.

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Reader Comments (12)

Felicity Jones is 31? I had to check IMDb to be sure... Wow. I'd never thought.

November 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJay

She does solid work, but if she gets an Oscar nomination, I'd call it confirmation of the "weak year" label (i.e., the Academy not thinking outside the box when it comes to this category).

November 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

@Jay: I know, right?! Both Redmayne and her must be the youngest-looking thirty-somethings going!

November 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCarlos

Paul -- yup. it's one of those years for sure (like 2003 or 2005 or 1994 or or or) because most of the interesting stuff is happening in the foreign or "weird" movies. UNDER THE SKIN / THE BABADOOK / TWO DAYS ONE NIGHT, etcetera

but with Jessica Chastain vacating there's one VERY open free-for-all spot (unless Adams is good enough to get her default nod). Should be exciting to see where things go.

November 8, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I'm sensing a comparison to 2008, not 2005, Nathaniel.

The default/most buzzed about performances will get the nomination with almost no attention to the rest.

The seasoned vet: Streep 2008 - Moore 2014
The one with momentum: Winslet 2008 - Adams 2014
The movie star working her magic: Jolie 2008 - Witherspoon 2014
The youngster who wow'ed: Hathaway 2008 - Jones 2014
The breakout: Pike 2008 - Melissa Leo 2014

I can only see one possibility crashing the party: Streep reenacting 2006 all over again and switching from supporting to lead.

November 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJay

Jay -- i love that you accidentally reversed the last one so i get to imagine FROZEN RIVER with Pike and MELISSA LEO as "Amazing Amy". what a different movie *that* would be. But we'll see on ADAMS. At least with the other performers we know that the movies/performances have fans. We do not know this about Big Eyes.

we shall see.

November 8, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I wouldn't underestimate Swank. When she hits her mark, she can be a powerful force, the Academy clearly like her and they like Tommy Lee. Plus, the closer we get to the release date for Big Eyes with next to nothing in terms of promotion...........not a good sign for Adams. I mean, other than the trailer, has there been anything?

November 8, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

I believe Felicity will be considered a SUPPORTING ACTRESS just like Jennifer Connolly a few years ago with a similar film.

November 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBette Streep

wow, I also didn't know that Felicity is just 31 years old!
and Keira is only 29 while Winslet is, believe it or not, 39.
there's must be some kind of magic there in England.

November 9, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercraver

I wish more people would give Swank her dues for her film,she is gr8 not win gr8 but nom worthy.

November 9, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermark

Everything about The Theory of Everything, including the fact that Jones was cast in it, bores me. Oscar bait galore.

November 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

bette streep - jane's role in the film is supportive, but the part itself is not. she actually has more screen time than redmayne. if she went supporting it would be complete category fraud (but, it hasn't stopped them before...) also, supporting actress is starting to get crowded with streep and chastain moving there. it seems like more actresses should take advantage of the opportunity in lead.

i can't really say that i was that impressed with the film as a whole. felicity jones does some nice work here, but it's a very safe, very oscary-prestige choice for a nom. i would rather have either of cotillard's performances, johansson, or gugu mbatha-raw...

November 9, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterabstew

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