“The Danish Girl”

“The Danish Girl”
Directed by Tom Hooper

danish-girl(Disclaimer: my negative review of this film in no way mirrors my feelings and opinions regarding the day-to-day and institutionalized struggles experienced by those in the transgender community. I consider myself both an ally, and an advocate for equality, for all transgendered individuals – some of the bravest of whom I am proud to call dear friends.)

Wow, this film fails on so many more levels than it succeeds, it’s pretty shocking. The script, direction, structure, and score – plenty of blame to go around for this mess. Let us illuminate the ways…

  1. Script – Every single scene in the first and second act ends with a little giggle by one of the two leads…almost as if they were pulling their hands down and uttering the word “scene”. The last movie to utilize a recurring button like this was the turn-and-storm-off  move in “Showgirls”.
  2. Script – Every single scene is EXACTLY the same. The only way to know it’s different is through Redmayne’s slow transformation in terms of style, affectation, and costume. The result is a brutally boring film.
  3. Direction – Hard to tell where the three acts begin and end when all the scenes are the same. But wherever that is, the first act is interminable and smacks of Hooper being afraid to edit out ANYTHING.
  4. Structure – The film could have, and probably should have, ended twenty minutes before it actually does…you’ll know it when you see it. The sentimental coda at the film’s ultimate conclusion could have easily remained without all the extraneous and repeating mishegas in-between.
  5. Score – Alexandre Desplat should pay EVERY CENT of his fee and royalties to Johann Johannsson. This score, while quite good, is almost a note for note rip-off of the score for “Theory of Everything”. Not a huge distraction… unless you’re me.

Now for the slightly more positive, namely, the acting. Eddie Redmayne, while not aided in ANY way by the script or the direction, is incredibly convicted in his approach and choices, which allows us to not just accept Lile’s transformation, but root for it. Alicia Vikander, who is the current Hollywood “it” actress (and, holy cow, is she stunning) is okay…I guess? I’m not a fan of her work (with the caveat that I have not yet seen “Ex Machina”). And like Leo in most of his work, I feel I can see her acting all the time. It just somehow feels artificial. Again, she’s not helped by Hooper, so maybe I’m being unduly harsh. Even one of my favorite actors, Matthias Schoenaerts, seems ill used and out of place here.

Finally, the closing title card (the bane of my existence as a moviegoer) actually states that Lile Elbe’s “bravery and pioneering spirit remain an inspiration for today’s transgender movement.” Really? We really needed to see that?! Of COURSE she is! Why else would you make the film?! If you can’t lead us to a better understanding, or at least provide us with a believable emotional arc, a title card ain’t gonna fix it!

Alas, both Lile Elbe and Eddie Redmayne deserved a better film than this. If you want to understand more about the struggles of transgendered individuals via representational media, watch “Transparent” instead. That piece of work is genius. This is not.

Written 1/9/2016

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