R | 120 min | Biography, Drama
Review - Matt Mungle
**In select theaters December 18th 2015**
Synopsis: The remarkable love story inspired by the lives of artists Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener. Lili and Gerda's marriage and work evolve as they navigate Lili's groundbreaking journey as a transgender pioneer.
Review: 1920's Denmark is the backdrop on which Director Tom Hopper paints a beautiful, dramatic portrait with THE DANISH GIRL. At first glance it would seem like this is just a bandwagon film latching on to some 2016 pop culture headlines. But do not let that distract you from, in my opinion, the more powerful story; that of Gerda Wegener.
Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander) is a female painter in a male dominated world. Her husband Einar (Eddie Redmayne) is the successful and well respected artist in the family. The two have a passionate, outgoing, and affectionate marriage. They are peers in the artistic world and admire each others talent. When Einar expresses to Gerda his desire to dress in women's clothing and openly admits that he feels more comfortable living as a woman their marriage takes a turn. But it is Gerda's compassion and patience that makes this movie powerful. Her acceptance and struggle is the story worth telling.
Vikander is an amazing actress and in this role she truly gets to show what she is made of. We have seen her in the comedy action realm ( The Man from UNCLE) and the sci-fi world (Ex Machina) this year but this award worthy performance solidifies her place within the young Hollywood elite. Gerda is a struggling artist trying to get her work noticed. She has to deal literally with the other woman who is slowly stealing her husband away from her. You can see her toil against what her heart is saying, what society deems as acceptable, and what this means for her future as a wife. The more Lili Elbe emerges more pieces of Einar Wegener dies. And it is her pure love for Einar that allows her to embrace Lili. Vikander weaves all those emotions in a tapestry of dramatic brilliance.
Eddie Redmayne caught the attention of everyone with his Academy Award winning performance as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. His slow transformation was riveting. The same thing happens here. We see him start out as an introvert artist who adores his wife and career. With each scene we see him morph and poke through the cocoon. There is no question that he has struggled with the inward pull of Lili for sometime. Once he feels the freedom to emerge as a woman outwardly it brings healing to the woman inside. Eddie has the soft features and timid smile that helps the outward appearance. It transcends just acting. Like Hawking, his physicality aides in the performance.
The true story of Gerda and Einar is tragic and groundbreaking. There are nuances that could never be fully manifest on the big screen. This is not the modern world where transgender's are applauded as woman of the year. Instead they strapped you down and tried to drive out the perversion with radiation. Lili comes at a magnificent price. And Gerda spends all she has to aid in her birth.
Hooper does an expert job of utilizing Lucinda Coxon's script with Danny Cohen's Cinematography to make a beautiful film. There are a lot of soft edges and filters to make a relaxing motif. This helps Redmayne and Vikander to pop off the screen. It is certainly one of the best looking films of the year.
THE DANISH GIRL is rated R for some sexuality and full nudity. It is an adult drama visually and topically. The nudity and sexuality is handled with the same soft filter as the rest of the film so it is neither shocking nor salacious. Neither Redmayne nor Vikander flaunt their body or sexuality. The story is a journey for both characters and they each offer up powerful and stirring roles. It gets 4.5 out of 5 brush strokes regardless of who's story you think this is.