Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. United Kingdom/Germany/USA, 2015. Working Title Films, Pretty Pictures, ReVision Pictures, Senator Global Productions, Copenhagen Film Fund, Artemis Productions, Shelter Prod, Taxshelter. be, Le Tax Shelter du Gouvernement Federal de Belgique. Screenplay by Lucinda Coxon, based on the novel by David Ebershoff. Cinematography by Danny Cohen. Produced by Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Anne Harrison, Tom Hooper, Gail Mutrux. Music by Alexandre Desplat. Production Design by Eve Stewart. Costume Design by Paco Delgado. Film Editing by Melanie Oliver. Academy Awards 2015. Golden Globe Awards 2015. Toronto International Film Festival 2015. Washington Film Critics Awards 2015.
Einar (Eddie Redmayne) and Gerda (Alicia Vikander) live happily as husband and wife in 1920s Copenhagen, both painters though she lives under the shadow of her more celebrated and respected spouse. Gerda uses Einar as a model when the girl she usually employs is unavailable, creating a whimsical joke that goes the extra distance when Einar dresses up and attends a ball with her, passing himself off as his own cousin Lili. The ruse works (even roping in a suitor in an underused Ben Whishaw) but, more importantly, it awakens feelings that Einar has been keeping at bay for a long time, that he has always felt himself a female who was born in the wrong body. The times being what they are, however, Einar is not liberated but made to feel like he is insane, believing Lili a separate entity who invades his mind and takes over; Gerda, meanwhile, makes Lili the subject of paintings that finally see her getting recognition for her work. Tom Hooper follows a plot similar to his breakout hit The King’s Speech, giving us another sympathetic individual whose qualities make them feel socially ostracized until they find the perfect doctor to solve their problems. This time, however, the approach is somber and, in meaning to be respectful, unnecessarily humorless. Einar is something of a cipher, while his Lili is a passive bore, and why Lili doesn’t paint when Einar was clearly good at it is never adequately explained. Gerda, who is far more charismatic than her male co-star, speaks out against Lili’s expectation that she accept everything without complaint, still relegated to second banana even at the prospect that her husband is now a gal like herself. Hooper has little interest in her objections, quickly cutting away from Vikander’s frustration to get back to closeups of Redmayne’s shy smiles and tears. He has even less interest in Lili’s actual life, quickly skimming over a scene of her passing as a perfume girl behind a department store counter and focusing instead on long sequences of Redmayne preening in front of mirrors; you could read a disturbing covert message here that when a man becomes a woman he ceases to be an individual and becomes instead a symbol. The third act, in which Lili is given the medical attention she deserves and goes on to break new ground as the tragic pioneer figure of a movement still having a difficult time making headway, is rushed through far too quickly. It seems that Hooper is handling this story with kid gloves so that you can watch it with your grandmother, a smart story made in a pandering, dull way, beautifully shot but never moving beyond a first dramatic movement.