A new year begins and with it comes the arrival of the supposed award contenders here in the UK. Like last New Years Day this year Eddie Redmayne is front and centre, this time in Tom Hooper’s adaptation of The Danish Girl.
An adaptation of the fictionalised account of transgender artist Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe The Danish Girl turns out to be an extremely ordinary film about an extraordinary topic.
We first meet Einar as a man living happily with his wife Gerda, played here by Alicia Vikander. The two have an idyllic life, they live in beautiful Copenhagen, Einar is a successful landscape painter and Gerda is working on her portraits in hope of becoming as established as her husband. One day, as if through pure fate Gerda’s model fails to show up so she asks her husband if he will wear some stockings for her. This sets off a chain of events that leads to the invention of Lili- the female trapped inside Einar.
Eventually after attending a social party with Lily pretending to be Einar’s cousin she begins to take over and Einar soon slips out of sight, creating all kinds of emotional angst for Gerda as she has to lose her husband to a woman who she is not even sure exists.
It is a fascinating subject but Hooper and screen-writer Lucia Coxon approach the topic with such care that the film, whilst undeniably handsome is dramatically bland. Alicia Vikander’s Gerda becomes the sympathetic character here as the film never gives us any real insight into what is happening inside Lili’s head. So eager is the film to please a mainstream audience and Academy voters that it shuns any real insight in fear of sensationalism. The ending few scenes are the icing on the cake as the movie turns into coy, overly sentimental slush. The final scene in particular is incredibly heavy handled.
Whilst many plaudits will likely be going the way of Eddie Redmayne who once again shows us his brilliant ability to transform on screen the credit here should be going towards Vikander. Vikander anchors the film together with a performance that is likely to bring her some serious award nominations. Her performance deserves a better movie.
Tom Hooper continues to show why he is one of the most unimaginative directors working today- his continued use of establishing shots and close ups might make the film look more prestigious but they become very tiresome very fast. The grandiose style of film making just adds an air of self importance to the movie, one crying out for Oscar attention.
If you’re looking for an interesting film about Transgender take a look at Tangerine, or Xavier Dolan’s superb Laurence Anyways. The Danish Girl, whilst well acted is nothing more than a blatant piece of Oscar bait. One that is so desperate to please that it has taken an extraordinary tale and made it into a tedious fluff piece.