Tom Hooper / Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander / Drama / 2016 / 12A / 119 mins
The Danish Girl… seems pretty vague, dunnit?
Without seeing the trailer you’d presume this was some kind of cray anthropology doc on the quintessential Danish lass. Fear not, Tom Hooper’s film focuses on the true story of Lili Elbe (Eddie Redmayne), formerly Einar Wegener, a painter from 1920’s Denmark. When I say ‘formerly’ I mean it in the truest sense, for Einar knew from a very young age that he was woman trapped in male form.
Since Dallas Buyers Club, in particular Jared Leto’s outstanding Oscar-winning performance, Hollywood has become a hotbed for transgender flicks. This flurry has coincided with a cultural shift in Western views to the LGBT movement. 2015 not only saw gay marriage legalised in conservative countries such as the US and Ireland, but also the emergence of Caitlyn Jenner as a global celebrity and campaigner. It could be argued, therefore, that Tom Hooper nabbed the script from the Blacklist to ride the proverbial populist wave, and that resulted in one problem – it seems he didn’t really read the script.
Einar Wegener was the first man to undergo permanent surgery to become a woman – it’s a brave story that will doubtless inspire thousands of people. Redmayne plays his role with dignity and conveys femininity with aplomb. The acting all round is fantastic. The sets seem authentic, and it’s shot very well. So where does it all go wrong? I was trying to work this out. Was I missing something? No, I wasn’t. It really was a case of “It’s not me, it’s you.”
The script: it’s bland and thin on material. There’s this central story, and it starts with promise, but for some reason Einar’s wife, Gerde (Alicia Vikander), throws rationality out of the window when Lili/Einar straight up cheats. Gerde refuses to see how Einar could ‘change’ and abandon their marriage. You have to presume a lot of information till it’s confirmed much later (Einar’s illness springs to mind – random nose bleeds are played off as rather casual in Denmark, are they??). An eclectic display of being sure-then-unsure about his gender could possibly be a neat representation of Einar’s confused mind. Nah, I don’t think so, the erratic nature of the plot leaves drawn out silences scattered throughout – are we simply to observe the actors? IS THIS A ZOO??
I’ll admit, The Danish Girl looks tranquil, aesthetically beautiful, and is what you’d expect when Tom Hooper is at the helm. Redmayne and Vikander excel, watch this at the very least for their performances alone. It’s one of those movies that could, and should, have been edited much better, and of course the script lacked focus. Was it rush-released to coincide with the transgender buzz? I wouldn’t be surprised, but it’s backfired spectacularly.
It’s timid, conservative in approach and does little justice to Lili Elbe’s story.
Film as a Film – 3 / Target Audience – 3 / General Audience – 2
Follow Harry Crawford on Twitter @TheHECReview, or find him on Facebook, for more film & music gossip. He also writes for The Huffington Post.
“The Danish Girl (film) poster” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.