By Jack Dignan
Eddie Redmayne, you've done it again. You've done it two years in a row. The first time was with The Theory Of Everything and the second was with this. No, I'm not talking about giving a terrific performance in a film I loved to pieces, but instead giving a decent performance in an otherwise uninteresting movie that's clearly only here to go for some Oscars. Earlier in the week, I was watching a funny skit on YouTube that was titled 'tips on how to win an Oscar,' and in this video it explained all the traits your movie needed to win. The Danish Girl featured all of those traits, so congratulations, you're going to win some- oh wait. You need to be nominated to get a chance to win. My bad. Never mind.
The Danish Girl is the true story of Eina Wegener (Eddie Redmayne), a local artist living in Copenhagen in 1926. His wife, Gerda Wegener (Alicia Vikander), is also an artist, and after she paints Eina as a woman, the paintings begin to rise in popularity, and Eina begins to enjoy playing the role of 'Lilli.' This role-play allows Eina to embrace his inner woman, and it doesn't take long for him to realise he was never meant to be a man. Lilli is who he wants to be, although it seems the world disagrees with him, deeming him insane. But through the love and support of his wife, he hopes to set Lilli free and let her be accepted in this world.
I have mixed feelings about Eddie Redmayne as an actor. Sure, his performances are good, but I never seem to think they're as great as the award recognition he gets for them. With The Theory of Everything, his performance is done for him simply by getting into character and sitting in a chair. With The Danish Girl, it's certainly not a bad performance, but did he really need to get an Oscar nomination? Nope. And will he win? I sure as hell hope not. In fact, it's Alicia Vikander who really steals this movie, and while I don't think she'll win either, the Oscars really don't matter in the slightest.
Their performances are great, but it's really the script that brings this film down. The premise of this film is an important one, but the plot is uneventful and stretched out, and the characters don't give much to latch onto. Eina/Lilli is an absolute bore, constantly complaining about things and it comes to a point where it's just so uninteresting that it hurts. There's only so much complaining one character can do before it starts to get annoying. The only character I did end up feeling sorry for was Gerda, but she didn't start out that interesting, either.
Over the last six years, Tom Hooper's filmography has been gradually going downhill. I enjoyed The King's Speech, I can bare Les Miserables, and now I just straight up don't like The Danish Girl. There's never any life to it, Hooper never trying to make anything seem interesting. The film is bland and quiet, and nothing ever managed to hook me. The story he's telling is an interesting one, but he's unable to nail the execution. Sure, the costume and set design is exquisite, but nothing else is really that extraordinary, excluding the performances. It's all rather bland and familiar.
Another thing Hooper manages to do is make this one of the most Oscar bait-y movies of 2015 (or 2016, if we're going off of Australian release dates). What's the most common thing for an Oscar winning movie to have? Yep, a scene in the second act where a character sits next to a window, crying slowly and quietly while thinking about the events of the film while it rains outside. Any guesses about what movie has a scene like this? Yep, it's this movie. The Danish Girl just went full on Oscar bait and I groaned when this scene happened, and trust me, this isn't the only moment like this.
Without delving into spoilers, I have to talk about the ending. The ending isn't necessarily bad, but there's no pay off. Despite it not working, they do try to have the film build up to something and it doesn't work. The ending just puts you down, despite trying to make you smile and give you something to think about. The final scene is meant to be a visual metaphor, but it's forced and cringe worthy and just doesn't work. To be fair, this clichéd finale shouldn't really come as that big of a surprise as it's the same sort of scene you'll find in every movie trying to win an Oscar.
To sum up, The Danish Girl is a very well acted movie, Alicia Vikander stealing the show once again, but it's bland Oscar bait with whiney characters and a plot that gradually becomes more and more uninteresting. Let's hope Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them isn't Oscar bait as well.
2 1/2 Stars