Magazine article Screen International

'The Danish Girl': Review

Magazine article Screen International

'The Danish Girl': Review

Article excerpt

Dir. Tom Hooper. UK-US, 2015, 120 mins.

"I was always pretty, you just never noticed," says Eddie Redmayne's character in trangender drama The Danish Girl. In fact, Redmayne's androgynous prettiness has always been one of the noticeable factors of his intriguing screen presence, and it makes him a perfect fit for the film's theme - the story of painter Einar Wegener, later known as Lili Elbe, who underwent a pioneering gender reassignment operation in the 1930s. Redmayne's performance, and the very sumptuous polish of Tom Hooper's drama will undeniably make The Danish Girl a lead contender in the forthcoming awards season.

But this is an over-varnished, sometimes dramatically leaden, and determinedly mainstream drama that never really gets under the skin of a complex subject that has been depicted to far more trenchant effect elsewhere (not least, and with effortless brio, in recent Sundance hit Tangerine). Even so, visual gloss, prestige performances and the usual Working Title magic should make this audience-friendly package a very solid piece of middle-brow box-office bait.

Adapted by Lucinda Coxon from David Ebershoff's novelisation of Wegener's life, the story starts in mid-20s Copenhagen, where Einar is a painter of moody landscapes, beginning to find success - though it eludes his portrait painter wife Gerda (Vikander). The loving, and passionate heterosexual relationship is defined by Einar's feminine delicacy and Gerda's no-nonsense forcefulness - as defined when she barks at a hapless male portrait subject, "Sit!" (the command actually directed at a Jack Russell named Hvap, whose pertness Hooper overindulges shamelessly).

An interest in a new silk nightgown of Gerda's - a faint unwitting touch of Ed Wood's Glen Or Glenda here - is Einar's Road to Damascus moment, as he begins to realise that he has a woman within him. …

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