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Mathew Broderick plays Richard Feynman and Patricia Arquette plays his first wife.

The movie is based on Feynman's first autobiography, Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman. (An excellent book, BTW.)  Some items are changed in only very minor ways.  For example, in the book, Feynman talks about how he and his father sometimes watched the actions of birds.  When other children started asking their fathers about birds, they were told the names of the birds.  Feynman comes to his own realization that learning the names of birds is trivial knowledge.   To really learn about birds you have to watch them, as he and his father do.   In the movie, the father exposits that for the audience.

They almost completely gloss over Feynman's jobs prior to Los Alamos.  They show the hole in the fence gag, but never mention the combination locks.  They show the wife pasting together a letter and imply that all the letters were simply jigsaw puzzles.   They don't mention how they were always thinking up codes for each other and how that irritated the Los Alamos censors.

I felt that too much of Broderick's personality came through and not enough of Feynman's.  In almost every interview and most pictures I've seen of Feynman he's smiling or laughing.  He always seemed to find life funny.  I like Broderick, but that didn't come through for me.

One fairly large change they made was when his wife died.  In the book, he had another ordeal getting back to Los Alamos.  When he arrived, he buried his feelings from the kids under him and dove right back into work.  In the movie, he went home and was called to Los Alamos for the Trinity test.  He was fairly low in the scientific community at the time, so nobody would have gone out of their way to ship him there just for the test.

On my brother's Total Movie Value Scale, Rental.  This movie was far more shallow and superficial than I had expected.  The subject is pretty large to fit in a movie format.  I suppose a really good writer could capture Feynman's character in 90 minutes.  And Broderick might be able to play it.  But this isn't the screenplay that does it.

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