Review: The Danish Girl

By Christian DiMartino

Oscar winner Tom Hooper (the excellent Best Picture winner The King’s Speech) directs Oscar bait. Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) stars in Oscar bait. The two have collaborated for Oscar bait before (Les Miserables), and have collaborated for Oscar bait once again with The Danish Girl.

The Danish Girl isn’t as good as it thinks it is or wants to be, but it is still a good and admirable film. It is impeccably acted, beautifully filmed, and elegant, featuring yet another lovely score from Alexandre Desplat. What is surprising though is the fact that I was kind of left a little untouched.

The film opens in Denmark in the 1920s. We meet a married couple named Einar and Gerda Wegener (Redmayne and Alicia Vikander, who truly has had a hell of a year). Einar is a successful artist, Gerda is trying to make her way. One day, she asks Einar to pose for one of her paintings in a dress. This event brings some sort of an awakening for Einar.

Not long after, Gerda finds Einar in one of her nightgowns. She takes this surprisingly well, thinking that it is just some sort of act. She soon takes Einar to find a wig and a dress, and the two of them attend a party. Einar uses the name Lili. Surprisingly, only one person, Gerda’s friend (Amber Heard) recognizes him, and from this night on, Einar’s transformation into Lili is nearly complete.

The rest of the film focuses on the relationship between Lili and Gerda. Gerda, still in love with her husband, of course wants Lili to be happy, but yet she still hopes that she can get her husband back. Meanwhile, Lili is pretty much in full effect, but this of course causes trouble to their marriage.

Coming off of his Razzie worthy work in Jupiter Ascending (most critics jump over that one), Redmayne is of course strong in the role. I still don’t believe he should be an Oscar winner, but I can at least admit that the man is talented. His performance is of course the showiest, but yet I found his character just a tad too selfish to completely care about. Yes, Lili was brave for her transformation, but yet she didn’t really care about Gerda’s feelings.

Vikander is the real standout here. Coming off of an honor roll that includes Ex Machina and The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Vikander is the character you care about most in the end. She has the more difficult role, as the loving wife who of course wishes nothing but the best for Lili, but still has trouble coping with the transformation. We feel for Gerda every step of the way. Either way, expect Oscar nominations for both of them.

The film wants us to care about both of them. It cannot really have it both ways. If it could, it would be some sort of magic act. I did care about Gerda, and of course I cared for Lili. But I was more on the Gerda side of things, when it probably should’ve been the other way around.

I found The Danish Girl fascinating, even though I do wish it would have spread its wings a little. Only occasionally do we sense the film pushing boundaries. The rest is fairly by the book. Nonetheless, it’s an intriguing story.

I wanted to love this film. It is flawed, but in the end, the strengths prevail.

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