REVIEW: The Man Who Knew Infinity
The comedic Youtube-duo BriTANick, a few years back, released an incredibly hilarious short titled, Academy Award Winning Movie Trailer. The short parodies the “Oscar-Bait” film tropes that we have all come to know and, hopefully, hate, with each joke hitting hard and fast. The tropes vary, from the “established, wealthy, successful protagonist”; the “character suffering from the most topical disability of the present year”; the phrase, “I gotta use tough love to help this Latin American teenager believe in himself,” spoken against the backdrop of a classroom taken right out of Stand and Deliver. Trope after trope after trope is mercilessly attacked in this short, and it is hysterical. (Check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAG9Xn5bJwQ)
The Man Who Knew Infinity is this sketch, but for real. And not funny. And not good.
It takes the basic beats of every drama known to man, tosses in a dash of World War I, provides an overcast of racism, and proceeds to bash the audience over the head with every possible moral cliché known to filmmaking. The film is lazily produced and directed; the screenplay is underwhelming; the performances are borderline laughable; and it treats the audience like someone who has never been told a story before. It is remedial in its delivery, like someone cut & pasted the schmaltzy moments of various Spielberg dramas, and slapped them together. I had to often remind myself I that I wasn’t watching a high school play. I’m completely serious. I forgot sometimes.
I hate it.
The “film” “tells” the true story of Srinivasa Ramanujan Iyengar, a world-renowned mathematician from the World War I era who was a natural genius. Coming from zero education background and living in one of the most desperate locations in India, obscure mathematical equations came naturally to Ramanujan. After gaining admittance into Cambridge University, he begins to study and proof through various mathematical theories, all with the assistance of Professor G.H. Hardy. Together, the two historically pioneered through previously-thought unsolvable mathematic equations. The true story is actually quite fascinating, as it is a beautiful look into the disparities of British aristocratic of the time, and the brilliance of someone not of the same upbringing as those from Cambridge. Ramanujan and Hardy are two historic figures, and I fear that their names are disparaged in this film’s representation of their time together.
Let’s start with the script. Inherently, this story was going to be a bit on the bland side. Telling the stories of mathematicians is, for laymen, not an instantly intriguing one to begin with. But that is not to say that it hasn’t been done before, let alone well. Peter Weir’s Dead Poet’s Society, albeit about poets and not mathematics, told a fictional story set against a collegiate backdrop, and is a strikingly realistic portrayal of the desperate actions of those who dare to intellectually rise up. “Infinity” is everything but. The story blandly tells the story of Ramanujan, and tosses in some of the most useless dramatic clichés every time it can. Not only does it bring up racism, but it proceeds to remind the audience again and again AND AGAIN that racism was a thing of the past. We get it. Like, seriously guys. WE. GET. IT.
Per example, there is a scene that I wanted to enjoy: as Hardy fights to grant Ramanujan fellowship with the college after the discovery of a breakthrough equation regarding partitions, the college says no. Their central reasoning being racial and class issues, and Hardy must be the first to break the news to Ramanujan. The scene WOULD HAVE BEEN heartbreaking, had it not been for the hour beforehand where multiple stereotypical scenes showcase Ramanujan being bullied by white officers or white students or white teachers for being “not white.” I don’t doubt there was racism. I don’t doubt there was violence. And I don’t doubt Ramanujan fought against these issues. But that isn’t the story that needs to be told in this film. If attacking or representing ‘racism’ was your goal, it should be minute and handled with care and subtlety. Lest it comes off as a self-congratulation of whites for overcoming our racist past, and how we have matured by electing minorities into positions that they otherwise would not have had. It’s almost racist in and of itself, but I digress.
The cinematography was bland, the music uninspired, the editing was borderline experimental, and the performances laughable. Jeremy Irons is the best part of the film, but I can’t help but feel that was just his natural ability to elevate the various characters he portrays. For instance, he was one of, if not, THE most recommendable aspect of the train-wreck that is Batman V Superman, and I would never recommend that film. In way of positives for “Infinity,” it would probably just be Irons’ performance.
When the audience isn’t being force-fed some of the most bland clauses of morality, or being drowned out by rudimentary plot development, The Man Who Knew Infinity has very little to offer in return. Quite frankly, I found it insulted the audience by disparaging the maturity of filmgoers everywhere. I fear filmmakers like director Matt Brown, who knowingly or not, don’t have the gall to tell a story realistically or even thematically, that instead they choose to ham it up by creating something that is so beyond safe, it comes off as “Baby’s First Drama.”
Written by : Jake Sanders