Thursday, February 25, 2016

Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Download debut: Tom Hooper/Lucinda Coxon's THE DANISH GIRL

One of this past year's juiciest piece of "Oscar" bait, THE DANISH GIRL proved a relatively successful arthouse hit with audiences, even if many critics found the film wanting. TrustMovies is only catching up with the movie now, upon its video and streaming debut, but he can readily understand both how it turned heads and left something less than a fresh taste in certain mouths. Speaking of taste, the movie is every bit as tasteful as we would expect from Tom Hooper, the director who gave us Oscar winner, The King's Speech, and the filmed version of Les Miz.

Mr. Hooper (shown at right) and his screenwriter, Lucinda Coxon (shown below, who based her writing on the book by David Ebershoff), do their best work early on in telling this very "inspired-by" tale of one of the world's first transgendered women. That would be Einar Wegener -- who became Lili Elbe -- aided by his supportive and hugely long-suffering wife, Gerda Wegener. Both spouses are artists (he of landscapes, she of portraits), and both are talented and (eventually, in her case) successful. Exactly how much of this "story" is actually true I
couldn't begin to vouch for, but it is told in the manner of so many of Hollywood's highly tasteful and lovely-to-look-at historical bio-pics. So it's an easy watch. For awhile. The movie captures our attention via the lead performance of that very fine actor Eddie Redmayne, shown below, who plays Einar/Lili and is quite adept is showing us how this young husband is initially captivated by women and their clothing, and then, once his wife has persuaded him to pose in those clothes so that she can finish a painting, is quickly drawn first into cross-dressing and eventually into the all-out desire and need to become a woman.

Mr Redmayne and Alicia Vikander (below), who plays his wife, are both superb at keeping us alert, watchful and entertained, as well as making us believe that they are indeed soul-mates. The details of the couple's life together and their careers go some distance in making the first half of the film as compelling as it is.

Once Einar begins to get Lili-fied, however, either Ms Coxon did not have enough specifics to draw from or Mr Hooper could not bring these to much life because the movie soon begins to deal mostly in the obvious and the cliched.

As Lili engages in flirtation with an admirer (Ben Whishaw) and is reunited with an old friend and schoolmate (Matthias Schoenaerts, below) who soon bonds with Gerda, the filmmakers seem reduced to too much vamping -- dragging the film out to to fill the two-hour running time.

Yes, we understand how difficult it was back in that even-more-patriarchal-day for a man to relinquish his maleness, but instead of offering up some thoughtful ideas and intelligent dialog, the film instead is content with mostly standard stuff.

Still, this is quite a beautiful movie to look at; the cast is competent and often much more, and the subject is as timely as Caitlyn Jenner (and certainly more interesting than anything I've yet seen or read about her).  

From Focus Features and running 120 minutes, The Danish Girl has been available for digital download since February 16 and will make its DVD and Blu-ray (the transfer to the latter is excellent) this coming Tuesday, March 1 -- for purchase or rental.

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