No Kardashian drama here. Just drama in general.
In the mid-20s, Danish painter Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) was living what appeared to be, the life. Married to his beautiful artist wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander), was able to have as much fun as he wanted to, by going out to lavish parties, drinking all sorts of fine drinks, and, occasionally, getting a chance to dress up in women’s clothing to model for his wife’s paintings. At first though, it all seems like fun between a couple who clearly can’t be more in love. Eventually though, all of the fun begins to change and become, surprisingly, quite serious; now, instead of just having fun and wearing the women’s clothing for the hell of it, Einar is now wearing it all the time and doing it because he really feels the need to. Also, not to mention, that whenever Einar does dress-up, he does so under the persona of “Lili,”. Because, at is appears, Einar wants to be a woman, but considering that this is the early 20th century, it’s mostly frowned-upon and unheard of. But as his feelings become more conflicted with his feelings of being trapped in the wrong body/gender, friction between he and his wife start as they’re left to wonder what to do next with their relationship, as well as their own lives.
Around this time every year, there’s always that one movie that’s drenched in so much Oscar-bait, it’s almost embarrassing. These are, quite frankly, the kinds of movies that, on the surface, are pretty, handsomely made, edited, acted, and feature many “big” moments that demand your attention. But by the same token, these are also the kinds of movies that care so much about how many nominations they tally during awards season, that they forget what makes movies work so well in the first place: You know, things like heart, emotion, and most of all, importance. This isn’t to say that the Danish Girl, given the current world of media, isn’t important, but it is, at the same time, also the kind of movie we’re all used to seeing around this time of the year.
Meaning that, yes, the Danish Girl is safe, conventional, hardly surprising, and most obviously, accessible to just about each and every person who is the least bit interested in what this subject material is all about.
But I’m actually kind of conflicted in my feelings about that fact. For one, it’s nice to see a movie like the Danish Girl not be tied down by its subject material and instead, be able to tell its story the way it wants. Sure, there’s some full-frontal nudity and racy sex that will most definitely upset the elder ones in the crowd, but they don’t carry the movie down, or feel gratuitous; they work, given the context of the story. If anything, I’m more surprised that the movie itself wasn’t slapped with a NC-17 right off the bat, but hey, I guess there’s a true sign that we’re growing as a loving, caring and accepting society.
Still though, the Danish Girl is also too safe that it feels like it doesn’t really care about going hard or deep enough into this story to really have each and every person connect to it. This isn’t to say that unless you are in some way, shape, or fashion, trans, you won’t find something to be touched by with the Danish Girl, however, the movie doesn’t really set out to grab ahold of anyone. It has a story to tell here, which it does so well enough that it’s easy-to-follow and understandable, however, also feels like it’s just going through the same sorts of motions we’ve seen a story such as this go before.
It should also be noted that Tom Hooper, of the King’s Speech fame, directed the Danish Girl and clearly seems invested in what this story represents and discusses. That Einar’s constant need and desire to be accepted for who he was and not what others wanted him to be, is a universal enough feeling and idea that makes it easy for anyone to connect to. Granted, most of the Danish Girl is spent just watching as Einar goes from one scene to the other, trying harder and harder to hide his feminine ways, but still, given that this story takes place nearly a century ago, there’s something interesting to see and take note of; that everyone Einar goes up to to ask for “help”, is already prepared to fire up the lobotomy machine, or call up the cops, already gives you the right idea of just how controversial and forbidden homosexuality was.
This isn’t anything new, obviously, but Hooper presents it in such a way that’s neat to watch.
Problem is, like I said before, the rest of the movie moves at such a languid pace, it’s hard to ever get wrapped up. That’s a problem, too, because this tale of Einar’s own self-discovery, is supposed to be the one we feel apart of right from the very start – instead, it’s more of his wife’s story and just how she accepts the strange and unexpected turn her life has just taken. This isn’t to disregard Eddie Redmayne’s performance as Einar/Lili, as anything but good, because he really is; after awhile though, the character does become one-note and eventually, it’s easy to predict just how he’ll act when thrown into a certain situation.
The one I really couldn’t help but get wrapped up in was Alicia Vikander and her character’s story. 2015 has, for the most part, been Vikander’s year – she’s appeared in nearly 8 films this year, most of which, she’s done something new and interesting within each one. While this role is most likely to be her the one of hers that garners the most attention, there’s no denying the fact that she, as well as the role, deserve it. What’s so interesting about Gerda is how accepting and supportive she is of her husband, even despite the fact that he’s clearly starting to drift further and further away from her and more into his own world.
It would be easy to chalk Gerda up to being “annoying” and “pathetic”, because of for how long she decides to stick by her husband, no matter how much pain or turmoil he causes her, but it’s obvious from the very start, really: They’re in love. And when two people are in love, it’s hard for the other to just get up and leave, regardless of the situation. Though Vikander does so much crying here that I was actually worried her tear-ducts would just split open, she’s still so effective here that, if the movie wins for anything, I hope it’s for her. She’s the heart and soul of this movie that always seems like she knows what she wants the most, even in the most confusing of times.
Which is, yes, absolutely what love’s all about.
Consensus: Lush, well-acted, and relevant, the Danish Girl is a fine film that’s easy to admire, yet, at the same time, feels so safe and conventional, that it’s also easy to not ever actually get too involved with.
7 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire