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The Danish Girl
Buoyed by two remarkable performances, this is a film that becomes increasingly alluring once it puts its (great looking) clothes back on.
Although this is a drama about Lili Elbe, a transgender pioneer, it, too, is a love story between Lili and wife, Gerda Wegener. Both are emerging artists, living in Copenhagen in 1926. Theirs is a rather bohemian circle yet when Einar Wegener begins to take his cross dressing out of the apartment and emerges as Lili, there is discomfort both from their friends and even themselves. Gerda, initially game to incorporate some female undergarments in their sex play and whose professional breakthrough comes when she uses Lili as a model, begins to question her marriage. Einar, increasingly unable to deny what he truly wants, descends into a depression only lifted when he finds a doctor who can help him transform, physically, into Lili for real.
The first third of Tom Hooper’s beautiful period piece feels very uneven. Everything looks gorgeous and there’s an obvious desire to contrast that with the pain and confusion going on in the Wegener home. But I never felt the real emotion of the thing until the rather timid sex scenes were over and we get to watch Einar literally tuck himself in. That’s when, for me, the real movie begins.
Alicia Wikander is just great as the adventurous woman who becomes outmatched. Watching her calibrate the evolution of Gerda, from bold and unconventional to mature and devoted lover is almost as remarkable as is seeing Eddie Redmayne transition right before our very eyes. Note I say almost. Because Redmayne is once again, amazing. As in The Theory of Everything, his physical performance is spot on, but it’s the acting that happens beneath all that that makes this his best work yet.