Tom Hooper’s (The King’s Speech, Les MIs) transgender drama The Danish Girl had its premiere at the Venice Film Festival last night. David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter praises Redmayne’s “full-immersion physical and emotional transformation into a brave real-life figure.” Check out all the early reviews after the jump. “Inspired by the lives of artists Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener (Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander), the film centers on the couple’s marriage and work as it evolves during Lili’s journey as a transgender pioneer.”
The film will have its North American premiere at TIFF next week. Ben Whishaw, Sebastian Koch, Amber Heard, and Matthias Schoenaerts also star. The film opens nationwide November 7.
The Playlist: While it’s easy to be sniffy in an “obvious awards bait is obvious” kind of way, the fact is that both actors are very good, even if trapped in the amber of Hooper’s overweeningly tasteful direction…”The Danish Girl” is so primly told (bar perhaps one tucking scene), it treads so delicately around even the most conservative sensibilities that it might just work to change some minds, which makes it valuable in a way an edgier, swifter, more urgent, individual or exciting film (for it is none of those things) might not be. And you do not have to like it to believe that is true. [B-/C+]
The Guardian: But well-meaning and polished as it is, The Danish Girl is a determinedly mainstream melodrama that doesn’t really offer new perspectives its theme; and in the year of Caitlyn Jenner, it’s a theme on which mainstream audiences are ready for more trenchant insight… It’s that painterly finish that finally drains the life out of The Danish Girl, a film that smacks more of the coffee table than the operating table. Despite what we’re told about the danger and extremity of the untested medical process that Einar undergoes, there’s little sense here of the corporeal, or of pain. It’s as if the body has been written out of Lili’s story. 2/5
THR: Aside from saturation use of Alexandre Desplat’s lush score, Hooper avoids the lumbering, over-emphatic qualities that made his Les Miserables such a snore. One might have wished for a more adventurous approach to this moving story, particularly at a time when transgender representation has taken over from gay rights as the next equality frontier. On the other hand, maybe the film’s conventionality is exactly what’s needed at this time to enlighten mainstream audiences on transgender issues? For a story about two artists, it might also have been legitimate to expect a more painterly quality to the visuals. However, aside from establishing shots of wintry Danish landscapes and dockside fish markets, the look is standard-issue polished period piece, with handsome but unremarkable production design by Eve Stewart and more striking costumes by Paco Delgado.
Ultimately, the film’s chief strength is as a vehicle for Redmayne, following his Theory of Everything Oscar win with another full-immersion physical and emotional transformation into a brave real-life figure.
Variety: Lili’s emergence is a gradual and hesitant process, beautifully embodied by Redmayne — and reflected by Vikander, whose Gerda does her best to adapt alongside her husband, amounting to a substantive role for the film’s resident “Swedish girl.” Shy at first, like a flower opening, Redmayne ducks his eyes and turns his head as Lili, his confidence growing in tandem with the rolling boil of Alexandre Desplat’s strings and piano score.
The Daily Beast: Redmayne, who played Hooper’s Marius in the aforementioned movie-musical, is once again a revelation here, with his effeminate features—thin frame, prominent cheekbones, sparkling eyes, pouty lips—making his physical transformation seem not only believable, but necessary. Few actors bring such tenderness to their characters while at the same time communicating great inner strength and fortitude (those expressive eyes, shimmering with promise, help in this regard). This is the type of performance Oscars were made for, and Redmayne has mounted a very strong case for a second consecutive Best Actor nomination.
HeyUGuys: One of the main problems with the film is Lucinda Coxon’s screenplay. Unlike David Seidler’s intelligent and funny script for The King’s Speech, here there are too many clunky conversations and they take place over ridiculously long times. On the plus side, Hooper has created a mainstream film about the world’s first transgender, bringing a potentially divisive subject to audiences who might otherwise shy away. The costumes (by Paco Delgado, who collaborated with Hooper on Les Misérables) are divine, though they are perhaps too divine, Einar/Lili and Gerda seeming to have a bigger wardrobe budget than their means suggest. Redmayne and Vikander make a charming couple and there’s a minxy little turn from Amber Heard as their ballerina friend.