The Danish Girl – Dir: Tom Hooper

the-danish-girl-posterStarring: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ben Wishaw, Amber Heard

Based (loosely) on real-life events, The Danish Girl sets out to tackle the issue of transgender politics from a very personal perspective, with director Tom Hooper aiming to enlighten, rather than shock his audience.

The story…based on a fictional novel but inspired by two Danish painters, takes place in 1926. Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) is a well-respected Danish painter, his wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander) is still struggling to be recognized for her work. Despite the disparity in their professional lives, they seem very happy together and are intent on growing their family.

The first sign that things may be not all peaches and cream comes when Gerda asks her husband to sit for a portrait she’s working on…the female model is unavailable and so Einar dons a dress and strikes a pose.

The wearing of women’s clothing seems to unlock something inside him and when Gerda first discovers her hubby’s seemingly innocent interest in cross-dressing, she is quite supportive, finding the whole thing somewhat sexy and fun.

At one point Einar, who is not comfortable around crowds, is expected to attend a gala party. Gerda wants to go and Einar doesn’t, so they hatch a plan for Einar to dress up as his female “cousin” Lili and see what happens.

As it turns out, “Lili” is so convincing that she gets hit up on by a would-be suitor, Henrik, played by Ben Whishaw. Gerda discovers the two of them, off on their own, about to kiss and realizes things are getting out of hand.

From this point on, Lili becomes more and more dominant and Einar virtually disappears…much to Gerda’s sadness. The one bright spot, from her perspective, is that she continues to paint portraits of Lili and establishes herself as an artist to be reckoned with.

The power of the film comes from the performances and the restrained direction. Eddie Redmayne already has one Oscar on his mantle for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory Of Everything. He could very well be nominated for another.

Possibly even more impressive is Alicia Vikander’s performance. She does a beautiful job of playing the loyal wife who struggles to understand what is happening to her marriage and attempts to be as supportive as she can be under the circumstances.

The entire film is full of impressive performance including those of Matthias Schoenaerts, who plays childhood friend Hans and Whishaw’s Henrik, who becomes a friend to Lili/Einar. The one over-the-top performance comes from the couple’s pet dog who seems intent on stealing every scene he’s in.

The film is not perfect. Hooper’s pacing is a bit slow, his story-telling could use some tightening up as the film is just under two hours long, which is probably about twenty minutes longer than it needed to be.

Nevertheless, this is a beautifully crafted, and at times, moving film that, although it takes place nearly 100 years ago, feels very relevant today.

Marty Duda