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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Friday, January 08, 2016

Movie Review - The Danish Girl

The Danish Girl (2015)
Starring Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Amber Heard, Ben Whishaw, and Matthias Schoenaerts
Directed by Tom Hooper

Talk about Oscar bait -- every single solitary thing about The Danish Girl just screams "GIVE ME AN OSCAR IN ANY AND EVERY IMAGINABLE CATEGORY!"  From the cinematography's soft lighting to the musical score's dramatics to the direction that is sometimes laughably mannered to a leading actor who seems to be trying so desperately hard to "inhabit" a role, all aspects of The Danish Girl seem to have been made with the hope of claiming film's most coveted prize.  Needless to say, director Tom Hooper's film is so utterly disappointing and bland in nearly every aspect -- save one -- that I hope the Oscar voters don't take the obvious bait.

Based on a true story, The Danish Girl tells the tale of Dutch artist Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) who was born and lived life as a man, but feels that he is truly meant to be a woman.  Back in the 1920s, terms like "transgender" weren't known and Wegener certainly didn't know what was "wrong" with him in terms of his inability to truly feel his natural self.  His wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander), who is also an artist, has seemingly always known of Einar's proclivities to femininity and she embraces it, thinking that it will make their relationship better also presumably completely unaware of Einar's true feelings.  One evening, Gerda convinces Einar to attend an art gathering dressed as a woman whom they name Lili and Einar's world is turned upside down as he realizes that being a woman is who he truly longs to be.

In the grand scheme of things, buying into the story of The Danish Girl isn't particularly difficult, but the film makes it impossible to give a damn about nearly everything we see unfold.  Director Tom Hooper takes Lucinda Coxon's bland and watered-down screenplay and drags things out interminably.  There's really not much that happens here plot-wise and yet somehow I feel like Hooper and Coxon failed miserably at creating soul and dramatics around this life-changing moment in Einar's world.

Of course, Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne (who was so fantastic in The Theory of Everything) is also a huge reason as to why the film lacks emotional connection as well.  Rather than really dig into the role, Redmayne's mannered performance feels paint-by-numbers and studied rather than natural.  Granted, some would say that Einar is learning how to be a woman so of course he would feel uncomfortable, nervous, and mannered at first.  I'd certainly agree with that which is why it may seem unfair to say that every moment of Redmayne's performance felt as if he was "acting" rather than "inhabiting" (since Einar is kind of, sort of "acting" at first, too), but there wasn't a single moment here where Redmayne breathes life into Einar/Lili.  Even towards the end when Lili is finally coming into her own, it's as if we're watching a soft-spoken, one-note audio-animatronic rather than a real person onscreen.  To say Redmayne is a disappointment here is an understatement.

It certainly doesn't help that for every lack of insight in Redmayne's eyes, we see the exact opposite of that from Alicia Vikander who is the only good thing going for this film.  Vikander is compelling as Gerda and she does her best to make things as compelling as possible.  There are scenes where you get a sense of desperation, sadness, and yet understanding of her husband's plight (which becomes her plight as well seeing as how her world will drastically change), but none of that emotion is reciprocated to her by anyone else onscreen.

The Danish Girl is truly a disappointment.  With the pedigree behind it -- I truly enjoyed Hooper's The King's Speech -- I can't help but say I was hoping for something more than softly-lit scenes of softly spoken words being whispered to one another by characters as they run their fingers over pieces of clothing or make brushstrokes on a canvas.  Rather than artfully tell a story, this film reeks of desperation to win awards moreso than any other film I've seen in a long time which in part would be acceptable if it was any good which The Danish Girl is certainly not.

The RyMickey Rating:  D

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