Director: Tom Hooper
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander and Ben Whishaw
Running Time: 119 minutes
Release Date: January 1st
Fine an actor as Eddie Redmayne is (he bagged the Oscar for Best Actor last Spring for his body-warping turn in The Theory of Everything), there are only so many times that one can look at the plummy English thesp fluttering his eyelids and smiling bashfully.
In The Danish Girl, an aggressively Oscar-baiting period drama from Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, Les Misérables), there is a good two hours of this to contend with. Hooper puts the spotlight on Redmayne’s transformative abilities and leaves it there, as if to say: “Resist this, you judges, I dare you.”
It turns out to be to the film’s detriment. Redmayne plays Einar Wegener, a Danish master who in 1930 surgically transformed his gender after some time spent in corporeal turmoil. Opposite him (and arguably stealing the show) is Alicia Vikander as wife and fellow artist Gerda. Her love also undergoes a transformation into a touching unconditional advocacy as her sexual partner dissolves before her eyes. Ben Wishaw and Matthias Schoenaerts inevitably turn up as generic romantic suitors with a sideline in cheer-leading duties.
This reconfiguring of Einar and Gerda’s relationship is the most adhesive feature in this adaptation of David Ebershoff’s historical novel. Production-wise, it is splendid, but every second in Hooper’s film is arranged like a Vanity Fair shoot, with Redmayne pouting away centre-frame in drag. Indeed, so overwrought are some moments that you may struggle to keep a straight face amid all the hamming and political worthiness.
First published in the Sunday Independent