Anchored by another career-defining caliber performance from Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander’s breathtaking, heartbreaking work in the supporting role. Tom Hooper's 'The Danish Girl' might linger a little too long in some aspects of the first transgender woman’s tragic, uplifting, inspirational life. Nonetheless, this suffocatingly tasteful, overwhelmingly visceral biographical-drama ultimately succeeds (barely) despite its multiple stumbles. Thanks in large part to the chemistry and uncontainable talent of its two leads and cinematographer Danny Cohen’s soft, pastel, serene palette.
Like fresh from the fire glass, 'The Danish Girl' is delicate: pulled, stretched, and manipulated. Adorned with the necessary eye-catching, finely tuned details, lastly coated in the gold-hue of award season prestige. Tom Hooper’s latest is a puzzle whose pieces don’t ideally fit, rather congeal together when gazed upon from a distance to form an incomplete, flawed masterpiece. Hooper handles the fragile, complex subject matter with the necessary delicacy, patience, and humanity, to a fault. Although it might be too reverential or deliberately exhausting; art, after all, must be tolerated.
Copenhagen, early 1920s, Einar Wegener (Redmayne), an artist, stands in for an absent female subject being painted by his wife, Gerda Wegener (Vikander). Sensing an awakening, Einar begins to frequent parties and outings dressed in women’s attire, adopting the name, Lili Elbe. Coming to the realization that he is a woman trapped inside a mans body. Einar and Gerda, with the help of an old friend, Hans Axgil (Matthias Schoenaerts), undertake the dangerous task of sex-reassignment surgery.
I find it’s damn near-impossible to condemn a film when its cast totally commit and invest so much that their very performances leave them open to inevitable ridicule, judgement, and vulnerability. “The Danish Girl” is a prime example of this. Eddie Redmayne, who captured not only the hearts and cheers of countless film lovers last year with his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything,” but took home top honours at the Academy Awards for his efforts, quite possibly bests himself this time around.
Redmayne, donning a coppery-hairdo and rosy complexion, assumes a fluid, untameable weightlessness that’s irresistible. Redmayne’s performance in “The Danish Girl” implausibly depicts a tremendously strenuous self-battle and gives the self vs self conflict arch new meaning. It truly feels as if he is being smothered by his own skin, a stupefying achievement.
Redmayne’s counterpart, Alicia Vikander, who I’m known to be partial to, most importantly refrains from disappearing into her co-star’s shadow. Contrary to her partner, Vikander’s Gerda is exuberant, confident, and flirtatious. Endlessly loyal to her sexually confused lover, Vikander’s performance is one of charm, subtlety, and inconceivable strength.
Without question one of the more aesthetically stunning films released this year. As a whole unfortunately, “The Danish Girl” will undoubtedly succumb to its structural and technical errors come award season and lose out in the premier categories. That said, a majority of the praise for “The Danish Girl” must be given to the film’s visual departments: art department (hair & makeup, wardrobe, set-design, etc…), cinematography (Danny Cohen), visual effects, etc… If this film is in the discussion for any acknowledgement come award-season, it’s a safe bet that the aforementioned departments will be in the mix.
“The Danish Girl” isn’t a contender for film of the year, but its seductive, stunning visuals, relevant story, and powerhouse performances make it a must see of 2015.