The Danish Girl.
In 2014, Eddie Redmayne delivered hands down the best performance of the year in The Theory of Everything (winning him an Oscar in the process). There’s already talk he might do a repeat at the Academy Awards for his performance here in The Danish Girl. Does his performance stack up?
Redmayne stars as Einer Wegener, a painter in the early 1900s Denmark. His wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander) is also an aspiring painter and begins to use her husband as a stand-in. It’s through these modeling sessions that Einer begins to realize his outward appearance and inward soul don’t align, so it’s there that Lili Elbe begins her journey to make those two things line up. Lili Elbe is a famous figure in the transgender community, though this movie is labeled as a “fictional telling” of her life, so it make take liberties with the story a bit. We also have Amber Heard, Matthias Schoenaerts, and Ben Whishaw.
Leonardo DiCaprio did fine in The Revenant, but after seeing The Danish Girl, it is clearly Eddie Redmayne who deserves the award this year, as he delivers here such a compelling, nuanced, and complicated role that absolutely dwarfs every other contender for the Best Actor award. Will Leo win? Probably. But Redmayne should. He manages to portray huge moments of revelation and regret and fatigue in the smallest of gestures and before he ever dons a wig, you can see Lili in his eyes. It’s stunning and beautiful.
While he’s great, it’s Alicia Vikander who really steals the show as well, as Lili’s wife Gerda. I had just watched her in Ex Machina a few weeks ago and it’s crazy how different two characters could be. She has quite a future in front of her and hopefully gets an Oscar of her own as well. Watching her attempting to work out what’s happening and the eventual loss of her husband (and gain of a new friend) is simultaneously beautiful and tragic for her character. She plays it all fantastically.
What doesn’t work?
The performances carry this picture, just like how Jennifer Lawrence carried Joy. Likewise, the rest of the movie doesn’t quite live up to those performances.
My biggest problem with this film was the pacing. It felt a lot longer than it really was and had quite a few “false endings,” which are moments where you thought the credits would roll but the movie kept continuing. I got a bit fatigued by the end.
Also… I don’t say this often: This isn’t a movie to see in theaters. Rent it. Watch it on Amazon Prime or something. Here’s why. I made the mistake of seeing this in a big theater on a Friday night. There were quite a few people there, for a movie like this, but I didn’t anticipate what happened next. People laughed. Constantly. Every time Redmayne would appear as Lili, there would be chuckles. There are some romantic scenes that illicited giant whoops and laughs from the crowd, in a way that reminded me how far we really have to come still. I don’t think the average moviegoer is necessarily ready for this. They may have gained some insight by the finish of the film, yes, but it definitely disrupted my viewing experience multiple times.
I’m not quite sure what they expected the movie to be but I’d recommend seeing it on your own or with friends that you trust to enjoy the material appropriately.
This movie is fantastic. Both Redmayne and Vikander deliver performances that are absolutely award-worthy (and should be givens). The movie has some pacing issues but that’s not enough to deter you from seeing this. I’d recommend watching onDemand or some other way that you’re not watching with other people, as the audience may really impact your enjoyment of the movie.