Friday, December 25, 2015

The Danish Girl

Adapted from the novel of the same name by David Ebershoff, The Danish Girl is a movie that is constantly telling the audience it is an important movie without ever showing us why. The movie gives us the story of artist husband and wife Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) and Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander) and Einar's struggle with his own sexual identity leading him to take on the identity of Lili Elbe.

The movie tackles the issues of Lili's sexual identity head-on while examining the effect of his changes on both his relationship with his wife and his artistic career. First, Vikander and Redmayne are both terrific in the film. However, aside from giving the leads meaty roles to dive into, The Danish Girl struggles in making the story of one of the first recipients of sex reassignment surgery interesting.

Don't get me wrong, The Danish Girl a capable film that does justice to its sensitive subject matter, given Elbe's standing in the LGBT community, but it's certainly more notable for the performances of its two lead actors than its script. One could argue it's dangerously close to the category of Oscar-bait.

Because for so much of the film Lili is trying to make sense of her own feelings and desires the film comes to a close without truly letting us know the character. Lili doesn't know what she wants so how could we? The introduction of both a red herring love interest and a childhood friend (Matthias Schoenaerts), both of which subplots are dropped rather inauspiciously, only further muddy the waters.

The piece of the story that works best is the relationship between Einar/Lili and Gerda, however that relationship fades during the last third of the film as Lili struggles for a life outside of incredibly open and loving marriage that allowed the female part of her personality to thrive in the first place. In the end Gerda, rather than Lili, and the sacrifices she makes for her husband make for a far more rich character.

No comments: