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The Danish Girl

Nominated for Best Actor (Eddie Redmayne) at the 88th Annual Academy Awards

Nominated for Best Supporting Actress (Alicia Vikander) at the 88th Annual Academy Awards

Nominated for Best Production Design (Eve Stewart, Michael Standish) at the 88th Academy Awards

Nominated for Best Costume Design (Paco Delgado) at the 88th Annual Academy Awards

Two consecutive years of prestige drama mediocrity for Eddie Redmayne, but who am I to complain? Like last year’s “The Theory of Everything”, “The Danish Girl” looks pretty, is well-acted, and is based on a true story. But if you barely take a risk, and simply remain ever-so-tasteful, how do you expect to engage audiences with two hours of high-gloss prancing? Of course, Redmayne grabbed the Best Actor Oscar last year, and is nominated for same currently–so what do I know, right? Well, I know that box office was pretty tepid for “The Danish Girl”, so audiences are already saying “what have you done for me lately, Eddie?”. I like Mr. Redmayne, but I’d love to see him spread his wings a little bit. At least, “The Danish Girl” grabbed a Supporting Actress nomination for the beguiling Alicia Vikander. This film is my least favorite (easily) of the trio I’ve seen her in this past year, but, if anything, she’s getting recognized for something. Ms. Vikander proved to me that she’s a real actress in 2015. And most recently she’s the favorite to win the Oscar, against a very prestigious field.

In Copenhagen, Denmark in the 1920’s, two married artists ply their trade. Gerda Wegener (Ms. Vikander) is a specialist in painting portraits, while husband Einer is renowned for his landscape work. But when Einer stands in one day, for an absent model, we watch a buried passion awoken in Mr. Wegener when he puts on female clothing to assist his wife in finishing a painting. Turns out that Einer has long identified himself as a woman. And soon the couple are relocating to Paris, where Einer goes through a period of treatment for, and eventual full acceptance of, his desire to live the rest of his life as a lady. And through it all, Gerda dutifully stands by his side.

Don’t look for much complexity here, because “The Danish Girl” is painted with very broad strokes. And it contains an embarrassingly inept final shot, that found me taking away any leeway I had lent it over the previous two hours. Director Tom Hooper’s instincts are getting worse as his career marches forward it appears, and Lucinda Coxon’s screenplay does no justice to the performances either. Mr. Redmayne does a decent job here, is convincing in his gentle mannerisms, and properly tremulous when the script calls for it. Ms. Vikander is fine in the standard ‘supportive wife’ role. Hey, this kind of thing won Jennifer Connelly an Oscar for 2001’s “A Beautiful Mind”. It did likewise for Marcia Gay Harden for 2000’s “Pollock”. So, Alicia’s odds are strong. But “The Danish Girl” needed  to apply much more than the surface-skimming, play-it-safe, paint-by-numbers display that is on exhibit here.

Grade:  C

next review up:  “Black Mass”

 

 

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9 comments on “The Danish Girl

  1. I’ve been wanting to watch this then I change my mind ever so often. It does feel a little like a safe period drama. After reading your review, it does seem like like it isn’t that complex. Nice review Mark! Would you say Tangerine was the more superior transgender drama?

  2. Good review Mark. It’s an interesting movie, but not really all that compelling. Just well-acted and pretty.

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