‘The Danish Girl’
Director: Tom Hooper
Stars: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander
2 (out of 5) Globes
As a film about one of the first cases of surgical gender reassignment, “The Danish Girl” is only so-so. As a break-up movie it’s downright radical. The story of Lili Elbe, who was born as Einar and is played by Eddie Redmayne, is told with delicacy, empathy and not a small amount of monotony, in part because the filmmakers never figured out a solid way into their real-ish story. (The film is based on a fictionalized version of a real tale, some of whose key particulars are presently lost to history.) The story of how Lili split ways with her ex-wife, Gerda (Alicia Vikander), also delicate too, but it’s also sharp, insightful, quietly tough and maybe even profound about how love can last even after a good, devastating dumping.
One thing “The Danish Girl” can’t be reduced to is a mere message of tolerance. But perhaps it should have been, at least a little. Lili began transitioning in the 1920s, almost 100 years ago, but we see little of any discrimination or even fear she must have faced. When Lili — formerly an esteemed and well-dressed painter — decided to be Lili, she simply becomes Lili, her only real obstacle being the early days of modern surgery. Even an old friend (Matthias Schoenaerts), despite growing into a macho art dealer, is totally cool talking about that time they kissed when they were boys.
You could say that’s the point — that it wants to offer a fantasy version of her self-actualization, one portrayed as normal, because that’s how it should be seen. But it’s also viewing the past through an advanced modern lens, while, ironically, offering little to say about transgendered people today, who still face discrimination and violence.