A gem of a small movie, told with gentleness and feeling
A caution: this review reveals details of the movie.
The movie "Infinity", stars Matthew Broderick who portrays the Nobel-prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman. Broderick also co-produced and directed the movie. Keeping it in the family, the screenplay was written by Matthew's mother, Patricia Broderick. The other major role, that of Feynman's first wife Arline Greenbaum, was played by Patricia Arquette.
Infinity is not a documentary about a phase in the life of Feynman the scientist, my expectation. My first impression as the movie unfolded was disappointment. I have been intrigued by Feynman the physicist and scientist since I purchased his Quantum Mechanics lectures trilogy in 1968. As the movie progressed, I saw that it isn't a movie about science; it is a movie about the heart. The point of this movie is to portray Feynman the person, and his relationship to the love of his life, Arline Greenbaum; in this it succeeds wonderfully.
A few years back, while reading one of Feynman's books, I ran across a passage which made a big impression. Feynman wrote that his children, who were raised in private schools and visited home only during holidays, were known well enough to him that if he were to meet one on the street, he would probably recognize that person as his child. That statement helped convince me to move from academia to the business world, making becoming a better father and husband my top priority. After seeing this movie, I better understand Feynman the person. The tragic loss of his first wife probably produced a life-long desire to hold personal relationships at a distance, and to make research and teaching his top priorities.
Broderick does an impressive job of directing the film. Just one example: at the moment of the death of his wife, my expectation was for there to be intrusive weepy violins. Instead, the moment moved through silence, making a more powerful statement. That scene reminded me of George Burns pulling down his shoe box of old photos from the top shelf of his closet, and looking at them quietly in "Going in Style", a scene which packed an emotional punch without resorting to violins.
There is another dimension to the two Brodericks' intelligence which surprised me: they did not botch the physics, what little there was. Nearly every Hollywood movie which has an opportunity to do so, gets the science wrong... having space ships produce impressive sounds as they move through the vacuum of space, for example. Matthew Braderick as Feynman explains beta decay to his wife using olives from his lunch in an approach worthy of the real Feynman. Also, Feyman's father explanation of inertia, in which he differentiated between being able to name it and describe it, which he could do, and understanding the "why" of it, which no one could do, was a "deep" understanding of science which Broderick portrayed with sympathy and understanding. By staying away from complex mathematics and the physics that could have been incorporated into this story, to the delight of the geeks of the world, Broderick created a movie that is accessible to all.
"Infinity" is a gem of a small movie, a love story, a true story, told with gentleness and feeling; a movie which does not overreach itself. I strongly recommend it.
I viewed The Best Man as a laserdisc, with Italian dialogue and English subtitles.
The story is drenched in century-old Italian culture, which is of much intrinsic interest to me. Cinematography, costumes and sets were high quality, down to the matched horses pulling the carriages. The plot is basically a romantic comedy, with few surprises. The majority of the movie takes place on New Year's Eve, 1899. The movie's focus was on the cultural shift of those times, away from the 19th century tradition of `arranged' marriages. The central character, Francesca Babini, rebels at her parent's choice of an arranged spouse. Her parents pressure her to go through with the marriage and succeed only in creating a disaster. The ending is a triumph for the modern, 20th century view of romantic love. I would recommend this movie both for those interested in historical Italian culture, and those looking for a good `date' movie.
I didn't see any profanity, nudity or violence that would merit the movie's `R' rating.