The Danish Girl reviews

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Re: The Danish Girl reviews

Postby Sabin » Wed Feb 17, 2016 4:33 am

I can tell you the minute this film goes wrong. Lowered expectations helped quite a bit in the early stretch. I found myself thinking this isn't so bad for a Tom Hooper film. Some easy dialogue and plotting but nothing unforgivable. And then minute nineteen or so when Einar comes to bed and Gerda discovers her undergarments. As written, this isn't a bad scene but as directed I couldn't tell you what either one of them is feeling in this moment.

When I saw the trailer for The Danish Girl, I thought to myself "Well, there's your Best Picture winner." I still think there is a Best Picture winner in The Danish Girl but not with this clown directing it. Give it to Lynne Ramsay or Terence Davies and perhaps it's a Palme winner with Tom Hiddleston in the lead role. I'm so furious at Blake Snyder for his impact on modern day screenwriting. The minutes from discovery in the bedroom to Einar's first outing as Lili aren't nearly enough to ballast this feature. I'd argue that the entirety of the film's true drama has been condensed to seven largely montaged minutes. That's unfathomably shortsighted. The film feels packed with unanswered questions on both a scene to scene and overall basis. It's an unclear and impersonal film.

Not without moments. Parts of it feel more interesting and visually arresting than any other Hooper film I've seen. But overall pretty misguided.
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Re: The Danish Girl reviews

Postby dws1982 » Sun Jan 17, 2016 10:30 am

I feel like the actors did what they could with unworkable roles, but there's just so much about the movie that doesn't make sense. As Italiano says, it's really trying to be inspirational, and that doesn't fit with the facts of the real-life story, which were much more tragic. I liked Redmayne fine last year (he would've been my second choice in that category), wouldn't nominate him this year (but they've done worse), but I did start to wonder: When is he going to do a film set in the present day? Looking at his filmography, almost everything he's done has been set in the past (or in fantasy land, like Jupiter Rising), a bit like Helena Bonham Carter in the 1990's. The only thing he has upcoming throws him back in fantasy land, then he's said he's planning to take a break, since his wife is having a baby. I just wonder, could he be convincing in something like The Big Short, or Steve Jobs, or Sicario, or is he going to be one of those actors who always seems best suited for period pieces?

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Re: The Danish Girl reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Sat Jan 16, 2016 11:47 am

I didn't exactly loathe this one - rather I felt completely indifferent toward it, which may be even worse, especially for a movie which tries so hard to be moving and "inspirational". It's made in the typical traditional style which is by now the director's trademark - and the period details are careful and visually attractive. But that's all, really. It's so safe and cautious that it could have been - if the subject had been allowed back then - one of those biopics of the 30s and early 40s. Except, of course, that some of those movies, while certainly dated today, were written by great screenwriters, sometimes European intellectuals, and were, for the times, reasonably complex. The Danish Girl approaches an interesting subject in a smooth, and ultimately uninvolving, way.
And while the 20s were admittedly a more open-minded decade than, say, any other before the 60s and 70s, it's true that generally the movie feels too contemporary, too easy. The leading character's past torments are only quickly mentioned, and for a while it only seems a matter of suddenly liking to wear women's clothes.
Eddie Redmayne's "cute" persona doesn't help, of course. But anyone who plays such a role is sure to be Oscar-nominated, especially if he's a rising star whom the Academy has already shown their love for. If I was more impressed by Alicia Vikander it's probably just because I had very low expectations about her. She plays the cliched supportive wife, true, but I'd say A BIT more believably than, for example, last year's Felicity Jones. She probably has some talent, but then hers is the kind of role which I'd personally (unlike the Academy) never consider for a prize. And I was so pathetically hoping to see some reasons for her nomination in Supporting that at one point, when the Redmayne character has to go to Dresden for some time and decides to go there alone, I naively thought that HER character would disappear for a while from the film. The next scene, she's in Dresden with him.

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Re: The Danish Girl reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Sun Jan 03, 2016 6:24 pm

There's no sense my pretending I went into The Danish Girl predisposed to love it, given my Redmayne/Hooper antipathy. But I encountered a problem that went beyond them. I'd thought I was seeing a film version of a novel; I discovered instead I was seeing an allegedly true story that was done as a novel. This seems to me the worst of all artistic worlds. Creators are free to take the bare bones of factual characters/events and run them through their own artistic mill -- in which case I can judge them by what they've done with the material. Or they can stick to the facts, and I'll judge their film as journalism (as well as whatever artistic salience they can extract from those basic facts). But when they novelize a true story -- especially when they've got Tom Hooper's sensibility -- they're sort of pre-Beautiful Mind-ing the material. If I object to things they've made up, they say "it's only a story". But if I complain about where the story goes, they answer "I can't help it; it's what happened". Either way, they win -- and I lose.

Disregarding factual claims and simply judging this as a story...I found it very hard to buy the initial premises. Einar, as BJ notes, seems more a fetishist than a transgender in the earlier scenes -- simply brushing by female clothing gives him close to an orgasmic glow. When he starts donning more and more feminine garb, his approach is close to Dr. Jekyll downing the potion. And what in the name of god is Gerda doing suggesting he go to this reception dressed as a woman? This is something I can't imagine any woman I know wanting her husband to do, yet no one stops to ask why she even considers the idea. The wiki page on the actual couple suggest she might have had some lesbian proclivities, which would have offered some explanation, but the film doesn't bother going there; it just sets it in motion without any particular rationale. And this is important, because Einar suggests doing this unlocked the Lily part of him that had always existed but lay dormant for decades. It's hard to accept something that crucial happening on a seeming fluke, an unexplained fluke at that.

I also had problems, as BJ did, with the all-but-universal tolerance Einar/Lily encounters. Yeah, there are the two doctors who want to put him away, and the obligatory park bashers. But there's also Hans, and Ben Whishaw's character, and Amber Heard and the savior doctor. One comes away with the feeling that either early 20th century Europe was WAY more socially advanced that many societies today, or the creators are working in fantasy-land.

This may be just me, but certain moments that delved into body intimacy -- Redmayne adjusting himself in the mirror, or mimicking the woman at the peep show -- felt a bit creepy not because of the actions themselves, but because they jarred so much with Hooper's otherwise overweening tastefulness. A director who'd kept the action a bit closer to real life throughout might have sold those scenes better.

For me, the plot totally goes kablooey in the final reel -- Gerda finds the infinitely patient Hans, who's not only perfectly tolerant of Lily but will seemingly wait forever for Gerda to come around to sleeping with him; Gerda is so selflessly devoted to Lily she makes Mrs. Stephen Hawking seem a hardass by comparison; and then those last scenes are so predictable and so corny they feel like they came from a 30s Bette Davis movie. It's no shock to find out pretty much all these elements don't conform to the facts.

As for the actors: like most, I think Vikander is the standout, simply because she feels like a living/breathing human throughout. She's quite beautiful, and has a presence that keeps the film moving ahead. She's also, emphatically, a leading character -- perhaps THE leading character of the film.

Redmayne does his "Adorable? Yes I am" poses for the early scenes, then does a ton of fluttering and misting up during the middle sections. I did think he achieved some genuine moments later on, but I fear those who are advocating him for prizes have more in mind those earlier, showy scenes than these smaller later efforts.

The film is pretty enough, especially in the costume department. But I can't help feeling that the only reason the film is in the awards discussion at all is because handicappers placed it there at the beginning of the year and it's devilishly hard to dislodge middlebrow Oscar bait from such a list.

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Re: The Danish Girl reviews

Postby The Original BJ » Tue Dec 01, 2015 7:25 pm

I can't say I was surprised by my reaction to The Danish Girl -- it's a mostly unimpressive movie, though not an aggressively bad one. It didn't make me want to make like Javert and leap from a bridge the way much of Tom Hooper's last film did.

But it's a mostly bland affair. Perhaps the most surprising thing about it for me was that I don't usually find a performance the most damaging element to any given movie, but I'd say Eddie Redmayne's work here might be the exception. I thought his performance was pretty miscalculated -- from the early scenes of the movie, there's no indication of Einar being someone uncomfortable in his own body, so that when he starts realizing his gender dysphoria, much of it revolves around his fascination with women's clothes. Scenes of Redmayne prancing around in dresses and practically orgasming at the touch of women's clothing strike me as pretty politically questionable, given the way so much of the contemporary trans movement revolves around having to convince people that trans women aren't just men playing dress-up, but women to the core of their being. And certain scenes -- like his big crying close-up -- are just too much to take seriously as anything other than ACTING.

Then there's the issue that the film seems almost too contemporary in its approach. There are numerous scenes of Redmayne dressed as Lili in which the characters buy her as a biological woman, and I kept thinking, that's crazy -- Redmayne looks like a man in drag, and characters in that era would react to that. Perhaps even more incredulous, all of the main characters completely support Einar's decision to undergo surgery and live as Lili -- none of that struck me as believable in the era in which the film depicts. (I mean, transgender people TODAY don't get as much support from their family and friends as the characters in this movie give Lili.) After seeing the movie, I started doing some research, and learned that at least one of these characters was completely made up (so there's no reason he couldn't have been assigned a more complex viewpoint). Even worse, Gerda, Alicia Vikander's long-suffering wife, is depicted as sticking by her husband all the way until the tragic end. But in real life, she had divorced her husband, moved to Morocco, and married someone else, leaving Lili to meet her fate alone. Obviously, one takes liberties with reality when making a movie, but changes like this put the film in A Beautiful Mind territory for me -- the whole thesis of the film seems to be that Gerda and Einar/Lili's love for one another helped them withstand tremendous obstacles, and yet Lili was ABANDONED, the way a lot of trans people still are today. Isn't that the more interesting, honest story to depict? Couldn't we at least have been spared Redmayne's final monologue, which strikes me as a ludicrously scripted moment given what happens following it?

I guess I should say a few words about Alicia Vikander, who I think definitely gives the better performance of the two. I have no doubt she'll fulfill on the promise of her breakout year -- she's a beautiful and charismatic actress, who delivers many of the film's more emotional moments solidly enough. I don't think she has a terribly compelling character to play here -- much of it is traditional supportive spouse stuff -- though she brings more grace notes and humor to the role than I might have expected.

I actually rate both actors iffy prospects for nominations. Redmayne seems to have held on to a "spot" in the Best Actor field, but I imagine any potential late-breaking candidates could bump him in the final stretch, much the way DiCaprio for J. Edgar missed out a few years ago. And given how fierce the Best Actress competition is getting, I think Vikander is going to need to pull off the fraud to get an Oscar slot, which, as we've discussed, will likely remain a question mark until nomination day.

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The Danish Girl reviews

Postby Precious Doll » Sat Sep 05, 2015 8:06 am

From The Hollywood Reporter

The Bottom Line
A respectable if somewhat emotionally muted retelling of a remarkable life.

Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne reteams with his 'Les Miserables' director Tom Hooper to play early 20th century transgender pioneer Lili Elbe.

The title seems almost a misnomer in The Danish Girl, director Tom Hooper's thoroughly English bio-drama of groundbreaking transgender figure Lili Elbe and the artist wife who stood by her husband Einar Wegener throughout his long and difficult transition to live as a woman. The correctness and careful sensitivity of the film's approach seem somehow a limitation in an age when countless indie and cable TV projects dealing with thematically related subject matter have led us to expect a little more edge. But if the movie remains safe, there's no questioning its integrity, or the balance of porcelain vulnerability and strength that Eddie Redmayne brings to the lead role.

Leaving aside complaints in the LGBTQ community about the lack of authenticity or courage in having a cisgender actor portray transgender experience, the film's reluctance to shock or offend will no doubt boost its appeal for middlebrow arthouse audiences. As will Focus Features' inevitable awards push around the Nov. 27 U.S. release.
Adapted by Lucinda Coxon from American novelist David Ebershoff's partly fictionalized account of Elbe's life, published in 2000, the film begins in Copenhagen in 1926, six years after Wegener's marriage to Gerda (Alicia Vikander). He's an in-demand landscape painter, while she's struggling to gain a foothold in the art market with her undistinguished portraits.

That changes when, fresh from a stinging rejection, Gerda asks Einar to stand in for her absent model, their glamorous ballerina friend Ulla (Amber Heard). He obligingly dons stockings and jeweled slippers, responding with evident pleasure to the tactile sensation of silk and satin against his skin. Gerda also finds new inspiration, and the resulting sketches and paintings capture the attention of a previously indifferent art dealer.

It's in this early action hammering the point of the Wegeners' rapturously happy marriage that Hooper's grasp and Coxon's writing are most uninteresting. There's plenty of obvious foreshadowing, such as Redmayne distractedly running his fingers over fur and tulle in the wardrobe racks at the ballet. But even if Gerda's initial encouragement of Einar's cross-dressing is accurately depicted as a bohemian game, it's more than a half-hour before even a glimmer of conflict creeps into what seems at first like a frisky romp.

The shift occurs when Lili, as Einar's emerging true self has been playfully dubbed by Ulla, gets a nosebleed after being kissed at a party by persistent suitor Henrik (Ben Whishaw), a transgression witnessed by the previously unflappable Gerda. Despite Henrik getting lumped with some on-the-nose dialogue concerning a conveniently placed oak tree ("They say you can eat its acorns and become anyone you want"), the drama in general acquires more teeth from this point on.

Redmayne is at his finest in the midsection, as Einar's attempts to honor Gerda's wishes and remove the escalating confusion from their marriage prove futile. Some of the loveliest moments of his performance are when the actor quietly disappears into Lili, with a coy smile, a delicate hand gesture, a studied rearrangement of the drape of her arm or the positioning of her feet on the floor. Later in the film, too, when the couple returns to Copenhagen after a spell in Paris, there's an understated emotional surge in seeing Lili go to work behind a chic department store perfume counter, radiating happiness at being a woman among other women. And watching Einar, still alternating in outer presentation as Lili, timidly studying sensual female body language in a Paris peepshow is one of the film's most exquisite and indelible scenes.

These gentle observations are no less affecting than the more dramatic — but also more prosaically presented — developments, when Lili realizes that continuing co-existence with Einar is impossible. She ventures to Dresden to undertake the risky and largely unprecedented step of gender confirmation surgery with a pioneering German doctor (Sebastian Koch).

Dramatic license dictates that details of the complex surgical procedure have been simplified, as has the later life of Lili and the end of her marriage to Gerda. Coxon tends to spell out in dialogue notes that are already implicit in the performances, particularly concerning the couple's unique partnership. Lili becomes the muse who inspires Gerda to do her best work, while Gerda's brush in turn makes Lili more beautiful.

The tender symmetry of this unconventional exchange is nicely captured by Vikander (the sole actual Scandinavian actor among the principals), along with Gerda's internal fight to balance her need for the man she married with her deeply compassionate desire to liberate Lili. But the film's intimate focus on the shifting dualities between Einar and Lili inevitably means that Vikander's character has less dimension. The same goes for Whishaw's role and for Matthias Schoenaerts as Hans, Einar's boyhood friend and early crush, who has since become a wealthy Paris art dealer.
Aside from saturation use of Alexandre Desplat's lush score, Hooper avoids the lumbering, over-emphatic qualities that made his Les Miserables such a snore. One might have wished for a more adventurous approach to this moving story, particularly at a time when transgender representation has taken over from gay rights as the next equality frontier. On the other hand, maybe the film's conventionality is exactly what's needed at this time to enlighten mainstream audiences on transgender issues? For a story about two artists, it might also have been legitimate to expect a more painterly quality to the visuals. However, aside from establishing shots of wintry Danish landscapes and dockside fish markets, the look is standard-issue polished period piece, with handsome but unremarkable production design by Eve Stewart and more striking costumes by Paco Delgado.

Ultimately, the film's chief strength is as a vehicle for Redmayne, following his Theory of Everything Oscar win with another full-immersion physical and emotional transformation into a brave real-life figure.

From Variety

Eddie Redmayne makes the ultimate transition, reteaming with 'Les Miserables' director Tom Hooper in this sensitive, high-profile portrait of transgender pioneer Lili Erbe.

Peter Debruge
Chief International Film Critic
A year after Eddie Redmayne proved his incredible capacity for reinvention in “The Theory of Everything,” the freckle-faced Brit pulls off the ultimate identity overhaul as “The Danish Girl,” portraying gender-reassignment trailblazer Lili Elbe, nee Einar Wegener, who was one of the first to make a “sex change” via surgery. For an actor, there can be few more enticing — or challenging — roles than this, in which the nature of identity, performance and transformation are all wrapped up in the very fabric of the character itself, and Redmayne gives the greatest performance of his career so far, infinitely more intimate — and far less technical — than the already-stunning turn as Stephen Hawking that so recently won him the Oscar. Reuniting with “Les Miserables” director Tom Hooper in a return to the handsome, mostly-interior style of the helmer’s Oscar-winning “The King’s Speech,” Redmayne finds himself at the heart — one shared by Alicia Vikander, as Einar’s wife Gerda — of what’s destined to be the year’s most talked-about arthouse phenomenon.

Though set nearly a century ago, between the years 1926 and 1931, it has taken this long for the subject to receive such a high-profile treatment, and though some might say argue it comes as too little too late, the pic’s release could hardly be timelier in the wake of so many recent headlines — especially the legalization of gay marriage and Caitlyn Jenner’s high-profile gender transition. As it happens, “The Danish Girl” has been in the works since the publication of David Ebersoff’s novel 15 years ago, with Nicole Kidman originally attached to play Lili for director Lasse Hallstrom.

Clearly, this was never not going to be a “prestige” picture. And while that ultra-respectful approach engenders allergic reactions in some, who’d sooner see a gritty, realistic portrayal — a la Jill Soloway’s terrific “Transparent” series for Amazon — than one seemingly tailored for the pages of fashion and interior-design magazines, there’s no denying that Hooper and screenwriter Lucinda Coxon have delivered a cinematic landmark, one whose classic style all but disguises how controversial its subject matter still remains. For rowdier crowds, there will always be “Myra Breckinridge.” In order to penetrate the conversation of “polite” society, however, one must play by its rules, and “The Danish Girl” is nothing if not sensitive to how old-fashioned viewers (and voters) might respond, scrubbing the story of its pricklier details and upholding the long-standing LGBT-movie tradition of tragically killing off the “monster” in the end.

Pause for a moment to consider how significant a choice it was to cast a man, Redmayne, in the lead role — which is not to say that gifted actresses haven’t delivered incredible work in pre- and post-op male-to-female parts, from Felicity Huffman’s “Transamerica” road-tripper to Olympia Dukakis’ “Tales of the City” landlady. But it’s almost unfair to cast according to the character’s target gender, as it inoculates whatever resistance the public feels toward these procedures (although one day, Hollywood will cross the hurdle of inviting trans actors to play such roles, as well as those on either side of gender divide).

When “The Danish Girl” first introduces Redmayne’s character, he is dapperly costumed as a Danish gentleman, making eyes across a gallery opening at his wife Gerda (Vikander). And what eyes! Throughout the actor’s career, casting directors have always wrestled with Redmayne’s exceptionally specific look, which is not so much androgynous as a paradoxical blend of pretty and off-putting features: those unblinking, long-lashed eyes; the sharp, knobby cleft of his nose; elegant malar bones set above pale, sucked-in cheeks; and lips to make Angelina Jolie jealous. Our brains never quite know how to process Redmayne’s appearance, and here, Hooper takes full advantage of that situation.

The first time Einar dons ladies’ clothes, the idea is Gerda’s: Already married, the couple both make their living as artists, and though Einar’s work is taken seriously, a gallerist tells Gerda that she could be great, if only she found the right subject matter. It’s just an offhand suggestion, a favor really, but Gerda asks her husband to slip on a pair of ivory stockings and matching silk pumps, inadvertently releasing her muse.

When Gerda’s intended model, dancer friend Oola (Amber Heard), does arrive, she responds to the situation with delight, christening Einar’s alter ego “Lili.” It’s a confusing moment for Einar, who has long repressed what made him different from he other boys in Vejle, Denmark, and who will later tell his wife, “You helped bring Lili to life, but she was always there.” Outsiders always want to know what makes LGBT people “that way,” seeking psychological answers to a situation with which they can’t identify, but “The Danish Girl” dutifully avoids any such armchair diagnosis. It is surely for the benefit of such skeptics that Lili explains, “God made me this way, but the doctor is curing me of the sickness that was my disguise.”

Until scandalously recent times, the medical community’s response to such identity issues was to diagnose their “aberrant” or “perverse” patients as schizophrenic or insane and to shock, drug or irradiate the sickness out of them. That chronic misunderstanding becomes a running thread in the film — which tends to be far more pleasant to watch when Lili is getting to be herself. She is understandably hesitant to come out at first, though Einar (who hates public gatherings) agrees to accompany his wife dressed as Lili, his imaginary ginger-haired cousin from Vejle. The resulting scene may be the film’s best, a coming-out as thrilling as Cinderella’s ball, in which Lili can feel the gaze of everyone in the room on her.

This, he learns, is how beautiful women feel all the time in public, and if audiences take nothing else away from Hooper’s humanely empathetic film, this lone gender-swapping lesson in identification is victory enough. Naturally, Lili’s situation is more complicated, instantly escalating when a young suitor named Henrik (Ben Whishaw, masculinized for contrast’s sake) takes Lili aside and tries to kiss her — at precisely the moment Gerda comes to fetch her husband. Clinging to the notion that Einar and Gerda’s love was strong enough to weather all the challenges of his transition, Coxon’s screenplay is dramatized in such a way that the couple never discuss any of these setbacks immediately, but instead get around to it a scene or two later, back at home and dressed in a fresh set of costume designer Paco Delgado’s lovely frocks.

In this case, Lili has vanished by the next morning, replaced by Einar, who appears to be genuinely wrestling between the two personae struggling for control of his body. At one point, reunited with boyhood friend Hans (Matthias Schoenaerts), he admits that he has considered suicide, but held back because he understood he would be killing Lili at the same time — a sentiment that all too many trans people share and one of the many reasons such a well-rounded portrayal is long overdue.

Of course, Einar’s struggle is very real, all the more difficult for its time, given the prevailing homophobia (dramatized in a Parisian gay-bashing) and sexual politics of the time. The late ’20s were still early days for women’s rights, and Redmayne represents someone trying to follow his female intuition at a time when that meant ceding the social privileges of manhood — an irony made clear in Gerda’s character, whose own bisexual identity has been conspicuously omitted, so as not to complicate the film’s politics.

Spotlighting least-represented thread in the LGBT quilt, “The Danish Girl” clearly wants to untangle the trans experience from the blanket definition of homosexuality, using Lili’s rejection of Whishaw’s gay character and her interview with gender-confirmation surgeon Dr. Kurt Warnekros (Sebastian Koch, playing the sensitive pioneer) to distinguish the two. What’s of utmost importance here is the discovery and ultimate acceptance of Lili’s true identity, and from the film’s perspective, the gender question has nothing (or very little) to do with sex. Rather, it’s something that reveals itself at first in mirrors and other reflective surfaces, and later directly to-camera, as Redmayne explores Einar’s hidden second persona.

As Hans puts it at a “Casablanca”-rich train sendoff, “I’ve only really liked a handful of people in my life, and you’ve been two of them.” But Lili’s emergence is a gradual and hesitant process, beautifully embodied by Redmayne. Shy at first, like a flower opening, he ducks his eyes and turns his head as Lili. Though his first attempt at makeup looks rather grotesque, he becomes quite the pro (with an assist from actual pro Jan Sewell, who also designed the star’s prosthetics in “The Theory of Everything”), upstaging the other women whenever he goes out in public. At first, the goal is simply to pass — a game, almost — but in time, the butterfly motif becomes clear, reflected in the pic’s ripening color scheme. By the end, the goal is complete and total transformation as Einar studies the body language of the women around him and incorporates them into what for Redmayne is a character, but for Lili is her true self.
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