The Danish Girl stars Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander as Einar and Gerda Wegener, a young Danish couple living in Copenhagen in the 1920’s. Einar and Gerda are painters and one day Gerda paints her husband as a woman (clearly there were underlying reasons for this), launching Gerda’s career as a well-known artist. It also begins Einar’s more open and daring thoughts about his real gender, as he feels more comfortable being a woman than a man (something he felt already as a teenager). Thus Lili Elbe appears on he scene, pretending to be Einar’s cousin. At first Gerda treats it all as a bit of fun, but she soon realizes that her husband may not be the man she thought she married. As for Lili, she is in danger of being confined as insane.
Redmayne is unbelievable, taking on another incredibly-challenging role as he continues to prove he has become one of the best young actors in the world. Vikander is also impressive as Gerda and is clearly a rising star herself. Along with the great acting, we have gorgeous cinematography and a powerful score by Alexandre Desplat. With the importance of its transgender theme which, like the relationship in Carol, was an untouchable subject for such a long time, The Danish Girl could have been a classic (like Carol). Unfortunately, for reasons that are difficult to pin down, Tom Hooper's The Danish Girl is less than the sum of its parts.
Part of the problem is that, in spite of the great acting, there is something one-dimensional about the way the characters of Einar/Lili and Gerda are presented. I couldn’t engage with their trauma the way I should have. I also wasn’t that impressed with the atmosphere of the film and never felt like I had a clear handle on the setting. Perhaps if this had been a foreign-language film, it would have been better.
Nevertheless, while I wished for a more captivating film, the acting of Redmayne and Vikander and the importance of the film’s subject lead me to award The Danish Girl ***+. My mug is up.