Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Danish Girl

Movie Name: The Danish Girl
Year of Release: 2015
Director: Tom Hooper
Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ben Whishaw, Amber Heard, Sebastian Koch, Adrian Schiller
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6

Synopsis & Review:
After the divisive yet successful "Les Miserables", director Tom Hooper is back with another period piece, based on the novel by David Ebershoff, itself a fictionalized account of the life of Lili Elbe, one of the first people to undergo sex reassignment surgery (Lili Elbe had her own autobiography published in 1933).
The film introduces us to Einer Wegener and Gerda Wegener, a young married couple in Denmark in the 1920s, who are both artists. Einer in particular has been getting some extra attention with his paintings, while Gerda, has experienced some trouble breaking through in the market. When one of her models misses an appointment, Gerda asks her husband to replace her and wear some silk stockings and a dress. What starts as an innocent request, it re-awakens in Einer a lost longing, something he always kept hidden throughout his adult life: the desire to be a woman. Initially with some reluctance, Einer finally realizes who he really is, and sets about becoming that person, while his wife desperately tries to maintain the relationship they once had. Things dramatically change when Einer discovers a doctor who has performed gender reassignment surgery and decides to take Einer's case.
Tom Hooper's films have so far fared better in tackling larger than life historical personas: individuals who overcome troubling circumstances to become successful in their own right (which was the case of his mini series "John Adams" and his Oscar winning film "The King's Speech"). "The Danish Girl" is somewhat a less accomplished feature, despite the fact that it features a revelatory performance from the wonderful Alicia Vikander. This is due primarily to the fact that the core component of the story, Einer's transition into becoming Lili, is never felt as something guttural, emotional and primal. For someone who claims that there's no going back to being a man, the process for Einer/Lili to evolve feels strangely superficial. The film is more successful in portraying the nuances of Gerda's career and life, how she learns to navigate the strangeness of her own life. The central character inversely becomes more about one specific thing, instead of allowing the viewer to understand the inner and fuller life of this complex person. Tom Hooper after a while starts repeating some scenarios within the story, which make the film feel derivative and repetitive. The supporting cast has little to do, but Amber Heard and Ben Whishaw create compelling characters with the little screen time they have. A missed opportunity to portray a person who was a trailblazer in her own right.