Well-meaning and polished as it is, The Danish Girl is a determinedly mainstream melodrama that doesn’t really offer new perspectives on its theme.
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Director Tom Hooper shakes things up a bit with The Danish Girl, proving that he’s capable of making a movie that’s both steeped in awards-season prestige and in possession of a pulse.
What Hooper fails to do is get to grips with sexual identity in any way that's intellectually or emotionally provocative or surprising. That makes for a cold, pretty, delicate movie – one that too often relies on scene-stealing production design or the overwhelmingly insipid score for its otherwise strikingly absent emotional power.
If the movie remains safe, there's no questioning its integrity, or the balance of porcelain vulnerability and strength that Eddie Redmayne brings to the lead role.
The story suffers from a distracting aura of self-importance. Vikander brings a remarkable tenderness to her character (who, in real life, left her husband's side much earlier) but Redmayne's sharp gaze and toothy smile make it virtually impossible to ignore the actorly feat on display.
Considering Redmayne’s achievement it’s almost shocking that you can argue Vikander gives the more memorable performance.
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 as handsome yet disappointingly flat as a painting on a chocolate box. It should certainly be applauded for bringing to light an unsung hero of the transgenderism, but in its unremitting tastefulness and sentimentality - even a beating has beautiful setting and a lovely bit of blood - it ultimately left this reviewer as cold as a dip in a Danish bog.
There’s no denying that Hooper and screenwriter Lucinda Coxon have delivered a cinematic landmark, one whose classical style all but disguises how controversial its subject matter still remains.
[A] beautiful, humane and moving biopic.