Redmayne misses the mark in ‘The Danish Girl’

Andrew Shermoen

Something about biopics in the vein of “The Danish Girl” makes me feel bad when I don’t like them. Their subject matter and story are supposed to make me feel something on an emotional level, but a lot of them never succeed in their execution. “The Danish Girl” is one of those movies. Despite some really amazing performances, the film flounders on the surface. It attempts to deeply inflict emotion, but ultimately it doesn’t take any risk and it doesn’t try anything that makes us feel connection to the protagonist in any way. Ultimately, the film is well-constructed but timid and unimaginative.

Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) is a talented painter in 1920s Copenhagen One day, his wife, Gerda (Alicia Vikander), asks him to wear a dress to fill in for a model for a portrait she is painting, and this ignites a desire in Einar that helps him begin to realize that he identifies as a woman, later named Lili.

When it comes down to it, there isn’t enough substance in “The Danish Girl” to make the story compelling. Einar/Lili is a wholly uninteresting character, despite the difficult journey that she must take to get what her heart desires. Perhaps this is just devotion to the true emotion of the person, but it still doesn’t make for a compelling lead. Eddie Redmayne, a talented actor, gives a performance that does not deserve an Oscar nomination, which is exactly what he got. Also, his performance is almost entirely in an odd whisper voice, making Lili incredibly difficult to understand in some scenes.

The real star of the film is Vikander. Her portrayal of Gerda is heartbreaking. Her devotion to her husband is so beautifully captured in Vikander’s gaze and brilliant delivery. I was so captivated with Gerda’s emotions during the story that it was more compelling than anything that Lili was going through. The re-creation of 1920s Copenhagen and Paris, as well as the costume and makeup design make for a beautiful film, but when it comes to story quality and emotional heft, “The Danish Girl” falls flat. Director Tom Hooper’s newest attempt has once again showed that he has not found a niche for his filmmaking style, nor has he truly made any cinema that is groundbreaking or interesting.

“The Danish Girl” isn’t a bad film. It’s construction is competent and it is still watchable. Although, a two hour film featuring a boring protagonist isn’t a great cinematic experience. Luckily, Vikander’s portrayal of Gerda is one of the best characters on screen this year.

Rating: 3/5 stars