Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Amber Heard, Ben Whishaw, Matthias Schoenaerts, Sebastian Koch
Directed By: Tom Hooper
A groundbreaking work that explores the life of painter Einar Wegener (Redmayne) as he transitions into Lili Elbe, becoming the first person to really go through sexual reassignment surgery. The problem with the movie is that it doesn’t really hold close to the true story of Lili/Einar or his wife Gerda (Vikander). For example, when Einar first became Lili, she was introduced as Einar’s sister. In the movie, she’s his cousin. In the film, she has two surgeries, in real life she had four. There is no court sequence where Einar and Gerda’s marriage is dissolved, or where Einar gets his sex and name legally changed to Lili. She also doesn’t die the same way she did in real life. If you can take into account that this is an oddly fictionalized representation of a real person, who actually existed, then it’s a good film. But, I had to take a few points away because I found the liberties taken to be unnecessary.
But, in all honesty, Eddie Redmayne has done it again. He has proven himself to be probably the greatest actor of his generation. A bold prediction, I know, but I’ve had most of his performances in my year end “best of” lists every single year. He was fabulous in My Week With Marilyn. He was a standout among the ensemble cast in Les Miserables, for me surpassing much bigger names Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe. He was absolutely the best performance last year in The Theory Of Everything, for which he won an Oscar. And even his over the top performance in Jupiter Ascending was the best thing about the film. After The Danish Girl, I think he might just be my favorite actor right now. His consistency over the past few years has been astounding. He should be given the keys to the kingdom after The Danish Girl, which I would have no problem having him win his second straight Oscar. (I haven’t seen The Revenant yet, FYI).
He is absolutely heartbreaking as Lili, and brings a lot of empathy to the role, making sure to carefully represent her in the best possible way, while also achieving an impossible level of honesty in his performance. It never feels fake, and in fact, it never feels like Redmayne. He sheds who he is as a person, and becomes someone else entirely. And, he has to do it twice, first to play the suffering Einar, and again to play Lili. I would say he’s a revelation, but nothing about Redmayne’s acting comes as a surprise anymore.
Alicia Vikander, as Gerda, also turns in her best performance of the year, after already turning heads earlier in Ex Machina. This girl is absolutely one to watch in the coming years. She’s feisty, she’s fierce, and she’s not afraid to show us who she really is. She doesn’t quite have the experience of Redmayne, but she never pales in his shadow. She absolutely holds her own, and gives one of the best performances this year as well.
Once you get past the film itself, you find yourself immersed in two absolutely perfect performances. Redmayne was the best thing about The Theory Of Everything, and in some ways this is a better film than that was. So, his achievement here should be even more easily recognized, as this film has a better flow to it, and better pacing. Tom Hooper is an excellent director, and he’s put another notch in his belt here. I just wish he had been more like Lili in real life, and been fearless enough to tell the true story, instead of a fictionalized account.
I wouldn’t nominate this for Screenplay, because of the liberties taken, but anything else is fair game. I thought it had a terrific score, great costume design, and beautiful art direction. It’s a great film that I feel privileged to have seen.
FINAL GRADE: A-