Danish Girl – Motion Picture Maniac
It’s funny how, in recent years, the Oscars have become a joke, we all know they’ve always been controversial due to the fact they can hardly get their nominations right let alone the actual winners, but at some point in history it became even worse when a checklist arose to dictate what requirements a film would need in order to be nominated if it couldn’t be because of basic quality. Something changed, it wasn’t about how good a film was anymore it was what it had that could pander to what the Academy likes personally, the list apparently states a film is automatically eligible if it’s a period costume drama or musical, preferably be based on a true story about a character overcoming a disability that’s relevant in current social affairs and, of course, has enough crying scenes to fill a swimming pool.
The Danish Girl has all of these and then some, it’s a loose retelling of the story of Lili Elbe, formally Einar Wegener – played in the movie by Eddie “never work with the Wachowski’s again” Redmayne, one of the first known transgender people to undergo sex reassignment surgery in the 1920’s, it’s about the strain it put on her marriage, how spouse Gerda Wegener, played by Alicia Vikander, had to cope with the revelation and the impact it had on overall life as the 20’s weren’t exactly times known for unconditional acceptance and equality for all. This film seems to tick as much off the list as possible; and for this there’s been a fair amount of hate to put it lightly.
For quite some time it had an IMDB score of 5.5 which seems like it could be worse but that’s more than a little unflattering in comparison to most of the rubbish that gets scores above 6.0. It seems audiences don’t really like a film that wants an Oscar so desperately it jeopardizes the experience, apparently when it’s that obvious the film is ruined – this is an opinion I don’t think I share. Yes the Danish Girl has all the stereotypical features of a film that’s willing to kill for one of those little golden statues but does that really prevent it from being enjoyed like any other film? If you ask me – no, absolutely not.
Though it’s safe to say the film sadly starts out on the wrong foot and takes some time to recover I’m happy to say at least it recovers, it’s a film that could have fallen on its face and died before a chance to get up given the extremely sensitive subject matter that isn’t tackled as much as most other LGBT issues so it has the stamp of scrutiny before it’s even left the gates but hey, it’s emotional, very well acted, nicely directed with confidence and maturity, looks great and handles its subject in a way that gives the impression that the bar was already set a long time ago, it doesn’t tread on egg shells and neither does it force it down ones throat, it finds just the right line to stand on and stays there forever.
At first I was very skeptical, as far as narrative goes the film doesn’t really seem to open properly, it doesn’t feel smooth with its introduction to its characters and my first impressions, while not exactly bad, were more or less unimpressed. Then I really started to worry as we get to the scene where Redmayne holds a dress close to himself, tightly clutching and feeling it as his wife requires him to stand in so she can finish a painting, the scene came across as forced with music playing loudly and the drama feeling a little too exaggerated for its own good, like the film has to ensure that you know this is where his true feelings are unlocked and realized (we saw this in the trailer, I’m not spoiling anything).
I was nervous, very nervous in fact, yet strangely enough, immediately after this scene was over, the film picked itself up and continues in a much smoother manner, the pacing improves and actually takes its time, the emotional weight is allowed to breath and feel authentic and most importantly the character’s realization of his inner feelings are not pounced upon right away, it still eels like some time before he truly understands how he feels, he doesn’t believe himself to be a woman on the inside right away, there is confusion and a struggle to truly comprehend before the settlement is made. It is for these reasons I like the film, it knows it can’t rush into any of it, it has to take its time, understand that the characters will not have all the answers right away and for this; it never falls flat, not once.
It seems Eddie Redmayne is a safe bet just as long as he’s not playing intergalactic royalty with a voice that switches between chain smoker’s whisper a siren having a temper tantrum. In the Danish Girl, he’s magnificent, he delivers a performance teeming with all the right emotions and presents them at exactly the right moment, I forgot he was an actor, the word “believable” only scratches the surface of just how good he is here, is he Oscar worthy? Well, given the season and the fact that he’s legitimately great I would say yes, most definitely. I give all my praise to Eddie, he didn’t just do it right, he did it beautifully, I’m a little bit sad however that some people have been quick to offer early dismissal as he isn’t actually transgender, the same way a lot of people say gay characters shouldn’t be played by straight actors, by that logic they should also be upset with Neil Patrick Harris playing a womanizer in How I Met Your Mother, it’s a two way street people, now can we stop complaining please? It’s not exactly blackface is it?
Let’s not forget however that Alicia Vikander carries just as much of the emotional weight as Eddie and pulls off equally spellbinding results, I remember seeing her in Ex Machina way back at the start of 2015 and thinking that if there’s any justice in the universe – she is going places, and since then I’ve not been disappointed. She is fantastic in this movie, truly wonderful, talk about hitting the nail on the head, I know it sounds like an exaggeration but she did not put one single foot wrong, again – all the praise in the world to Eddie, but Alicia’s support to the emotion is greatly realized; she did a fantastic job.
The film has a gorgeous look that reminds us that Tom Hooper is a master at telling the rule of thirds what it can go do with itself without the film looking like it’s badly shot, in fact I think one of the worst things the film could have done was look like a TV movie but Hooper is nothing if not cinematic. The period it’s set is realized brilliantly, the costumes look great, the production values are excellent and everything to do with the emotional core like the acting and the emotional payoff goes through the roof and while I wouldn’t quite rate it as high as something like Carol, which at this rate I think is going to stay with me forever, I don’t feel I really need to see it gain and let’s not forget that rather rocky opening that left me feeling very much concerned about what was to come, The Danish girl is sad, relatable, intriguing, poignant and insanely watchable.
Don’t let the fact that it’s been tailored to fit the academy’s needs distract you from some very nice filmmaking, does the film want Oscars, yes it does, does that level of desperation cloud its qualities, no, not in my opinion, it’s a good movie; as simple as that.
Author: Jamie Robinson