Monday, January 18, 2016

The Danish Girl (2015)

Rating: 3/4 Stars

Directed by: Tom Hooper
Cast: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ben Whishaw, Sebastian Koch, and Amber Heard.
Released: November 27th, 2015

Oscar Nominations: Best Actor, Production Design, and Costume Design

Won: Best Supporting Actress: Alicia Vikander

Before I begin my review, I always love this time of year because it is the time for all the award seasons especially the Oscars. Every year I tend to watch about 50% of what is nominated and while I guess accurately on the different categories I don't pick the winner based on my opinion and for once I want to make different choices on who should really deserve the Oscar. 

When it comes to this film, I was fascinated about this topic and curious enough to see what this film is about and wondering how Eddie Redmayne was going to transform into a woman. I haven't seen "The Theory of Everything" so I am entering into this film blindly when it comes to his performance and not watching it filtered as an Oscar winner. The critics have praised this film especially for Redmayne and some believe he could be winner come Oscar night. I do not know about that yet but in all honesty this film was not about him it was about Alicia Vikander. I entered into this film blindly when it comes Lile Elbe / Einar Wegener and I highly suggest the audience to follow suit because most of this film is utterly fiction inspired by these famous individuals. 

We enter Copenhagen in the 1920s and my attention is pulled in as we witness the sea port and the richness of colors that stands out with all the iconic buildings and homes that make Copenhagen. Gerda and Einar Wegener (Alicia Vikander, Eddie Redmayne) who are wife and husband in this film are painters who both are struggling to succeed in the art world and in their personal lives. They have been married for 6 years and while they are painters clearly Einar is the bread winner whether it be because he is a man or is a better painter. Einar loves his wife and tries to help his wife in the art world and for the most part she is being turned down everywhere leaving little hope of success.

Ulla (Amber Heard) is a dancer and a close friend who is volunteering her services for Gerda paintings. One day Gerda gets turned down by this art-seller and comes home furious and wants to focus on her painting. Unfortunately Ulla cancels at the last minute and Gerda decides that her husband will be her muse to finish the painting. Einar wants to make his wife satisfied and have a strong sense of accomplishment so he reluctantly helps her by putting on some leggings and women shoes.

As the audience member, instantly we feel a stirring is happening with Einar and in an almost hypnotic state, Einar is having these mixed emotions between being afraid that he is enjoying wearing women's clothing and wanting to explore more, and curious why these emotions have brought forth into the surface. While Einar doesn't wear a dress we know that a major change is going to happen soon.

After that first moment we see this journey how Einar becomes Lile through the course of the two hours. I was impressed that Gerda wasn't shocked at first about Einar wearing women's clothes and even encouraged that lifestyle as a form of a "game" when in actual reality whether she was in denial or not these moments become the defining moment that Einar is no longer a man and more of a woman.

It is crazy to even imagine what Lile had to go through in the 1920s because that was never heard of for a man wanting to convert into a woman. If you had that discussion with your loved ones, friends, or your doctor most individuals would find these thoughts to be disturbing and signs of mental illness and we get a glimpse of that in this film. I believe this film is quite an important film in this day and age especially since the Transgender movement is brought to the forefront and still a heated discussion to talk about and I believe this film sheds light that transgenders are perfectly normal and how difficult it is to accept yourself, and for others to accept your authentic self.

I believe at the end of the day you have to live with yourself and if that is difficult to accept then you need to look in the mirror and figure out what is wrong or missing in your life and what you need to do in order to be happy and at peace. People need to careless about the opinions of others and accept yourself. If becoming a man or woman makes you feel your authentic self then you need to do you and get the help you need to get the surgeries and resources you need. 

While I thoroughly enjoyed this film I still had issues with certain aspects of the film. Eddie Redmayne performance was captivating especially the difficult moments where Lile is debating if she is going insane with these surgeries and transformations but there was no depth. I understand that this takes place in the 1920-1930s and not the 21st century but I was expecting better Lile. What I mean by a better Lile is I wanted Eddie Redmayne and Tom Hooper to make bold decisions and improve the characters appearance because she looks exactly the same from the beginning to the end. I didn't feel like I saw a woman finally meeting herself instead I felt like Redmayne was just touching the surface.

There are limits to what Eddie Redmayne can do in portraying a transgender but with all the technology, costumes, and make up we have in 2015 it could have made Lile's appearance more believable. Alicia Vikander's performance was out of this world. I was immediately drawn in by her superb acting and felt everything that she experienced as Gerda was real and honest. I saw a few weeks back Ex-Machina and was shocked that she didn't get nominated for that performance but I understand why she was chosen for this performance. The scenes that showcases that Gerda is losing the man that she loves or who she married and that ending almost brought me to tears and I can't say that I experience that with anyone else in this film. While this film was about Lile / Einar, I believe the main focus is Gerda and how she deals with her husband becoming a woman. I applaud Alicia Vikander and cannot wait to see her future performances. 

I wanted the director to make bold moves and after the movie was over, I started doing research and realized that there was plenty of facts that wasn't showcase in this film since this is adapted from a fictional book about Lile and Gerda but I believe the director played it safe and I noticed that through the film and the lack of depth with these characters. I believe if they incorporated more factual elements into the story it would have made the film flow better. Plus the moments that showcase Lile experiencing moments of what being a woman was about it was cut short to show any further progress like when she works in a Perfume store and I thought we were going to see her make new friends and working out in public but we instead we got a 2 minute clip of her spraying perfume to a customer and her saying goodbye to her fellow co-workers. If they went that route I would love to see her co-workers inviting her to dinner or hang out outside of work and her showcasing her true self as a woman.

At the moment I want Alicia Vikander to win the Oscar whether that happens or not I will not know until I see the other nominees films. Out of the other four I have only seen Jennifer Jason Leigh from the Hateful Eight and Alicia outweighs Hateful Eight. Would I highly recommend going to the theaters to watch this film? No but I believe it is important that everyone should watch this film and learn the struggles of what transgender people are currently going through and how it isn't a mental illness.

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