Friday, December 18, 2015

Movie with Abe: The Danish Girl

The Danish Girl
Directed by Tom Hooper
Released November 27, 2015

Eddie Redmayne went from likeable, charming actor with solid mentions for supporting roles to Oscar winner last year with his winning, endearing portrayal of Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything.” It’s no surprise that Redmayne, who earned considerable respect for that part, chose for his next film an equally ambitious subject: the story of one of the first men to become a woman. Like his previous film, Redmayne’s new vehicle features him delivering a strong performance opposite an equally talented and immensely capable leading lady who exhibits a remarkable degree of perseverance and loyalty to a husband who is hardly the man she once knew.

When “The Danish Girl” begins, painter Einar Wegener (Redmayne) is a shy, quiet artist in 1920s Copenhagen who is overshadowed by his outspoken and ahead-of-the-times wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander), who also has aspirations of becoming a painter but has a more difficult time making strides in male-dominated society. Einar and Gerda have a wonderful relationship, one that is complicated when Gerda asks Einar to pose wearing a woman’s dress for her latest work of art, and a subsequent outing to a party with Einar dressed up as a woman stirs up confusing feelings for Einar that he cannot hope to suppress.

What ensues is an extremely externalized journey of transformation, as Einar spends time dressed up as Lili, who purports to be Einar’s cousin, and lives a separate life, speaking in a different way and claiming to experience memories, dreams, and moments as an entirely separate person. That transformation, clearly something that has been repressed and building for a while, is most fascinating to watch through Gerda’s eyes. She is immensely supportive of her husband’s needs and desires, but it soon becomes evident that for him to fully become Lili, she has to lose the man with whom she fell in love and built her life.

There is something about this film and the way that its events play out that feels lacking, not inauthentic but also not complete. Director Tom Hooper’s last two films were “Les Miserables” and the Oscar-winning “The King’s Speech,” two considerably grander stories of many people. This film is about two people and their intricate relationship and, predictably, the performances are what make it most worthwhile. Redmayne is understated and moving as someone caught between two lives and fully aware of the one in which he belongs, and Vikander, who is having a real breakout year, is fantastic as the passionate, unfiltered Gerda, full of personality matched only by her loyalty to her husband. The film’s artistic elements, particularly its score and its costumes, are strong, but the best reason to see it is its stars.


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