Hey guys! I’m new to WordPress, so to get a feel for the site and how it suits my hobbies of reviewing movies, my first reviews/posts will be ones that I’ve already written. In the spirit of the new year, I will be posting only my “Top 10” and “Bottom 5” movies of 2015 (or at least for the ones I wrote reviews for). Enjoy and let me know what everyone thinks. 🙂
This movie’s been on my radar for awhile, but thanks to those pesky financial problems, I’ve barely been able to see as many movies in the cinema as I have. But, seeing as I’m a big fan of Eddie Redmayne, I really wanted to see this, despite not knowing that much about the movie itself. I wasn’t sure if this movie was about a cross-dresser or a transgender person. In any case, EDDIE REDMAYNE!!!
It’s the 1920’s and the story follows happily married couple Einar (Eddie Redmayne) and Gerda (Alicia Vikander) Wegener. Both live modest lives as painters, but Gerda’s the one trying to make it big with her work, though so far unsuccessful, while Einar is more or less just enjoying the painting for painting sake. Well, one day in order to make it big with a particular dealer, she asks Einar to model for her in feminine clothing. He’s embarrassed of course, but is coaxed into it to help his wife. However, he becomes fixated in the women’s clothing. Brushing it off for now and Gerda hits it big with her art and is invited to a high-end party with a plus one. Einar isn’t much of a socialite, but in order to break free of that nervousness, he is disguised as a woman, pretending to be a cousin of Einar named Lili Elbe. However, the brief training to act like a woman, the make-up to appear like a woman, and an act of near infidelity begins a kind of awakening in Einar and realizes that maybe he doesn’t want to be a man anymore and Lili to be more than just a character. Maybe Lili is who he was meant to be.
Now, before I get into my review, I wanted to bring something to everyone’s attention. I’ve unfortunately not seen many reviews on this movie from the usual outlets I go to for a perspective that I trust. Having said that, my main sites that I go to for “ratings” is usually the InternetMovieDatabase, or IMDb.com. IMDb is usually my source to tell me how a movie is generally perceived by the everyday masses. Some I agree with (SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION is #1 on their list of top movies), and some I do not agree with. As I like to think of it, for those of you not in the know, IMDb rates out of 10. 10/10 has never been achieved (or for very long), but a 9/10 would be considered one of the greatest movies ever (SHAWSHANK and the first two Godfather movies). 8/10 is a great movie, one you should not miss out under any circumstances. 7/10 is a damn fine film and wouldn’t hurt to see it if you haven’t. 6/10 is like, okay. More good, but too many bad things to make it a good film. 5/10 is again, okay, but more bad than good. 4/10 is a straight bad film, 3/10 is awful, and 2/10 and 1/10 are the worst films of cinematic history. Usually, I agree or can understand if I movie I love, like UNDERWORLD, would be a 6/10. While I love the movie, I understand where its criticisms come from. I can just easily look past them.
But for the first time in my history, I have found a movie that IMDb gave a low rating that I just do not, and cannot, agree with. That movie is THE DANISH GIRL, that settles with a 5.4/10 (as of 12/17/2015). I’ll get into my theory as to why this is, but I’m going to give MY two cents first.
This film is absolutely beautiful and one of the best all year.
Should I even bother mentioning how great both Redmayne and Vikander are? They are. Redmayne gives an adorable performance as the shy and introverted Einar, and a powerful and heartfelt performance as Lili. But if you’re looking for a real powerhouse performance, look no further than one of my favorite rising stars this past year, Vikander. Holy mother of God, what a showcase of breath-taking proportion.
Where do I even start? First of all, the two leads share incredible chemistry. You thought Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield had great chemistry in the Amazing Spiderman movies, this movie wipes its ass with their performance, they’re that fun to watch together. To see Einar be so bashful about modeling for his wife, Gerda perfectly combining assertive and innocence all in one line is just too entertaining. But that’s only the light stuff.
Redmayne has this movie wrapped around his finger the moment that Einar’s transformation begins to take center stage. His fixation on the texture of certain fabrics, his exploration of his body… there’s a truly powerful scene with him stripping nude in front of a mirror and tucks his penis behind his legs to visualize himself as a woman. The movie is not afraid to show this and you see that awakening in Einar’s eyes that this is what he wants for himself.
But I can’t leave out Vikander as Gerda. She, like her husband, is in love and happily married. Even once they try to have sex, Einar is stripped and revealed to be wearing one of Gerda’s nightgowns. This scene is DRENCHED in atmosphere and Vikander runs an insane emotional gauntlet that speaks perfectly to how awkward, uncertain, kinky, and okay she is with this whole thing. Her performance only magnifies as the movie continues.
As Lili, she goes through everything you’d expect a woman to go through. Flirtation with a good man, the pushiness of a man who isn’t so good, the violence of those who ridicule what they find unnatural, and the reaction is given confusion, pain, curiosity, everything with perfection from Redmayne.
Is the movie completely flawless? Perhaps not. I saw CAROL the night before and both movies open with a cliche pretty landscape, as if some mountains, a lake, and some trees will be what the movie is about. Come on, film-makers, I’m here to see brilliant acting and get emotionally invested in these characters, not to watch a bush (I have given a golden opportunity for a joke. INTERNET, DO YOUR THING!!!). For a slower-paced film that goes into extraordinary detail about an emotional journey for a man who wants to be a woman, certain characters seem unusually okay with this controversy. Also, I have to admit, Redmayne’s face, while undeniably feminine and very convincingly can become a woman, his facial construction is WAY too unique to fool anyone. His big lips, wide smile, he wouldn’t fool anyone masquerading as a woman. But then again, Christian Bale as Batman was a miscast, not because he was bad, but because his mouth moves in such a unique way that it’s impossible to not know that Batman is Bruce Wayne. But, give me a premise, I’ll accept it for the most part, and I accept it here. Maybe the real Lili Elbe was more convincing.
As you can tell, I think extremely highly of this movie. So why does IMDb (admittedly, this is just ONE outlet as RottenTomatoes gave it a 72% [as of 12/17/2015]) give it such a low score? I want to say that, as much as I don’t think Caitlyn Jenner is anything special, when her operations were over and the public got an eyeful of all her splendor, EVERYONE had an opinion.
Maybe all that stuff is still a little fresh. What with the political victories of gay marriage being legal nationwide, maybe transgender is still a hot-button topic. Maybe audiences aren’t ready to see scenes like Redmayne tucking his penis between his legs, and be challenged in such a way to see someone go through that transformation.
Of course, that wouldn’t explain the popularity of the TV show TRANSPARENT, which tackles the same subject matter, albeit in a modern setting. So maybe that theory goes out the window.
Maybe a part of it is the way Lili is portrayed. Toward the last third of the movie, we see her visiting doctors to “help” her make sense of everything she’s going through, more often than not being labeled as insane or perverse, even going so far as to use electro-shock therapy to remove this so-called “disease.” Maybe audiences are taking it the wrong way and thinking that this is how the film makers really see a transgender person?
I have my doubts on this theory as well, as the movie does make it very clear to portray Lili as very confident in who she wants to be and never for a second plays with the idea that she’s mentally ill. Not to mention electro-shock therapy isn’t anything new in movies involving insane people and I don’t hear any backlash over its barbaric use in THOSE movies (STONEHEARST ASYLUM and ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST just to name a few).
At the end of the day, maybe I’m just simply in the minority. Maybe everything that makes this movie horrible are the very things that I find moving.
(WRAPPING IT UP)
Whatever the case may be, I found this movie to be ground-breaking and – dear God, I can’t believe I’m saying this, but – progressive. We need more movies and more characters like this in our stories and bring greater awareness to those still lost in segregation and prejudice, and to those still afraid to come out. The acting is spectacular, the writing incredible, this is probably one my favorite movies of the year.