Combustible Celluloid
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With: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Ben Whishaw, Sebastian Koch, Amber Heard, Matthias Schoenaerts
Written by: Lucinda Coxon, based on a novel by David Ebershoff
Directed by: Tom Hooper
MPAA Rating: R for some sexuality and full nudity
Running Time: 120
Date: 11/27/2015

The Danish Girl (2015)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

And She Was

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Best Director Oscar-winner Tom Hooper has delivered another ready-made movie for awards season, polite, highly polished and a bit safe, but with another great performance by Eddie Redmayne.

In Copenhagen of the early 1920s, Einar Wegener (Redmayne) and his wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander) are happily living and working as artists. When a model doesn't show up, Gerda asks Einar to pose wearing a dress. Einar finds the experience profoundly changing and decide he wants to go to a party dressed as a woman. Gerda cheerfully agrees.

After a tentative kiss from a partygoer (Ben Whishaw), it becomes clear that this is more than just dress-up for Einar. He realizes that he wants to be a woman, and actually already considers himself a woman, called Lili, trapped in the wrong body. When he learns of a surgeon (Sebastian Koch) who has developed an experimental procedure to change a person's sex, Lili knows she has no choice but to try.

Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) achieves another complete transformation here, subtly changing from awkward to comfortable in his female identity. The Gerda role is less strong; she only gets to react to Einar/Lili, and Alicia Vikander can't bring her to life.

Moreover, the movie is handled with kid gloves, soft, falling back on montages and skipping over emotional uncertainties. But Hooper (The King's Speech, Les Miserables) and cinematographer Danny Cohen mirror the main characters' artistic creations with strikingly beautiful landscapes, and Hooper adds drama with his trademark use of characters placed in odd corners of the frame. Its more of a basic introduction to sexual identity for the mainstream than it is a discussion about anything.

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