Is this what film buffs call “Oscar Bait?” It sure looks like it from the trailer I just saw. One of the first lines is, “imagine if we looked at a handful of sand close enough, we’d see individual grains.” Oh my god, I got a big ole’ grin across my face for all the wrong reasons. I was calling it, this movie was going to be pretentious with some serious cliches to boot. I mean seriously, the trailer ends with, “you have taught so much,” “No, it is you that’s taught me so much.” How many times have I heard a pair of characters say that? I mean, yeah, Jeremy Irons and Dev Patel look like they’ll be serviceable enough, but I wasn’t holding on to high expectations with this one. This is my honest review of THE MAN WHO KNEW INFINITY.
This biopic/adaptation of the Robert Kanigel novel, The Man Who Knew Infinity, follows the exploits of Srinivasa Ramanujan (Dev Patel), the famed Indian mathematician who would travel to London and make unprecedented breakthroughs in many fields of math alongside his friend and mentor, G.H. Hardy (Jeremy Irons). But not before facing the uptight, borderline racist heads of Cambridge University who seek to discredit any of his work in the midst of World War I.
So… it’s not as bad as I thought I’d be, but… yeah, let’s dive in.
Let me start with the one positive. Irons is actually really good in the movie. His G.H. Hardy is wonderfully cold, yet compassionate. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but I’m not sure how else to describe him. He’s a man who sees Ramanujan’s brilliance and wants his work to be recognized, but that the same time, he had to be strict with this young man. Ramanujan is an extraordinarily hard-headed who thinks that he can… just be published without following the proper protocols. Hardy rarely loses his patience, but he’s always pushing Ramanujan to do better. Even when he does, it’s usually because Ramanujan is being a child in serious need of a slap upside the face.
Speaking of the man of the movie, I do have to express my dislike for Ramanujan. Without any claim of knowledge of the actual man, the character portrayed on screen is unbearably whiny. Like I said, he wants to have his formulas published just like that. But in order to be published, he has to be able to prove how he got them in the first place, other than simply saying, “they just came to me.” It’s like saying, “I have a machine that can stop tornadoes,” but the moment that someone tells you to prove it, your response is, “I don’t know how.” Well shit, dude, a whole lot of good that does you and us. In one scene, Hardy will explain to him why proofs are needed, and Ramanujan will accept the reality of the situation. But then cut to another scene five minutes later and he’s still crying about how he isn’t being published and he doesn’t understand why proofs are necessary. Yeah, cue face-palm. Granted, this could all just be horrible writing, and not how the man actually was. Not that I would know, but I do know well-written characters and that’s not what was presented of this man.
The movie is also pretty predictable. Toward the beginning of the story, Ramanujan is accepted to go to London to work on getting his stuff published, being forced to leave behind his wife, Janaki (Devika Bhise). She tells him just as he’s about to sail off, “don’t forget about me.” Already as this scene is finishing up, I’m already predicting that he’d forget about her. But then through some really awful choices made by Ramanujan’s mother hiding all the letters that Janaki wanted to send to Ramanujan, she runs to her husband’s all-important temple where he would write his formula, drops to her knees, cries, and then with a heavy dose of schmaltz, she cries out, “he forgot me!” Out loud. Yeah, writers, we know what she’s thinking. Let the actress act and let us feel her pain instead of narrate it.
And holy shit, that mom was a bitch. It is never explained why Komalatammal (Arundhati Nag) dislikes Janaki so much. In fact, from the look of things in the beginning of the film, it looked like their marriage was an arranged thing. If she didn’t have a say in the marriage, then why take it out on Janaki? As far as the audience is concerned, the young girl never treated the mother with any level of disrespect, nor has she shown any disrespect toward Ramanujan, so what’s with the passive-aggressive bullshit? Because then they’d leave India together forever? There’s a little thing called, “visiting.” And shouldn’t any parent want their children to chase their dreams? I don’t know, I guess this could also be a cultural clash, but… damn, what an unlikable character.
The World War I aspect was unimportant to the story. I mean, for the real-world events, maybe the war had a deeper effect on Ramanujan, but the war is more or less just scenery. We have one character go off to the war, one scene of Cambridge getting bombed, which has no outlying effects on Ramanujan in the film, and a nifty little war camp for wounded soldiers that… doesn’t really affect the story other than shift the setting around.
Alrighty… I guess the only thing that saved this movie from being a total disaster was Irons. Everything else is just… bleh. Patel is a great actor when he’s given the right material, but I’ve said it before, when you’ve been given a horribly written character, it’s hard for even the best of actors to save the role. I sure as hell know that the math goes over my head, so for you egg-heads out there who want to see how authentic the math is in this movie, you might get a kick out of it. But for the rest of us, it’s meh. Unless you’re a die-hard fan of Irons, like I’m kind of turning into, I might say pass on this.
My honest rating: a weak 3/5.
That’s all for this week, guys. I might have an editorial on the way about my opinion of Marvel’s CIVIL WAR and the movie. Depends how I feel and if my friends keep me talking about it. Anywho, have a great rest of your week! ^_^