Director: Tom Hooper
Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander
The term “Oscar-bait” was coined with films like this in mind. The recipe is simple; you take a period drama and make it look really pretty so that no one notices the dull, drab plot at the heart of it. Throw in Oscar-winning Eddie Redmayne in a dress alongside up-and-coming star Alicia Vikander, and you have a film just crying out for The Academy to pay attention. Luckily, ‘The Danish Girl’ didn’t make it into the best picture nominations for this year’s Oscars, and here’s why.
This is based on a true story – which just adds to the Oscar-baiting – of a Danish artist named Einar Wegener (Redmayne), and his wife Gerda, an aspiring artist. The couple are happily married, until Gerda asks her husband to pose in a dress over him so she can complete a painting. Einar enjoys it, and they begin to experiment with wigs and make up, bringing to life a secret alter-ego, Lili. As the balance between Einar and Lili begins to shift, Gerda finds her artistic muse but at the same time sees her marriage fall apart as Lili becomes more than just a behind-closed-doors fantasy.
So why did I even bother watching this, if I was just going to complain? Because it’s my duty to watch as many films as I can, and as much as I may dislike a film, I still like to tick it off the watchlist and be able to discuss said film with some authority. It’s not that I don’t like full-on dramas like this, but it’s certainly not my go-to-genre. If you’re thinking my aversion to this kind of film has any bias on this review, believe me it doesn’t. I’m doing my best to find some positives (‘cos I’m not a horribly negative person, you see) and I actually didn’t hate ‘The Danish Girl’ as much as I thought I would. That’s not saying a lot though, and this film is still an early frontrunner for worst film of the year for me.
With both Redmayne and Vikander nominated for Oscars for their roles in this film, I expected at least their performances to be some kind of saving grace in a film I knew I wouldn’t be keen on. My opinion on both these stars beforehand couldn’t have been more polarised – I really don’t like Redmayne, and I adore Vikander. After this, Redmayne has lost any credibility he earned from ‘The Theory Of Everything’ for me. He’s just so overwhelmingly pompous, and I hate to get personal but his “acting” face is uncomfortable to watch. It’s not particularly his fault that this role is Oscar-bait, but there just seems to be something in his portrayal that suggests he knows what he’s doing; almost smugly aware that at least a nomination would come his way. Vikander isn’t terrible here by any means, and I would forgive any missteps from the talented young lady at this stage in her career, but I didn’t think she was outstanding. I guess it just felt a little bit like she was going through the motions, as though this is exactly the kind of role she would have practised at drama school or something; a pretty good performance but very predictable and generic.
It’s all framed together with nice music and lingering shots of faces and places, but it just feels so gratuitous and self-Indulgent. I have to say I’m glad I watched this film, so that I could see firsthand exactly how Oscar-bait this was. Reviews in general support my opinion that this is a bland, pretentious piece of film, with a 6.8 rating on IMDb (at the time of publishing). This may well be some people’s perfect cup of Earl Grey – if you like ‘Downton Abbey’ and shit like that, you might just enjoy this. But for the majority of cinemagoers, I say, don’t take the bait!