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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Where Does The Danish Girl Fall On The King's Speech Spectrum?

Last year I wrote about The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything and where it fell on The King’s Speech Spectrum. The King’s Speech Spectrum is a ratings spectrum for prestige British period piece movies about extraordinary events or people that seemingly only get made to win Academy Awards. On the lower end of the spectrum is the spectrum’s name sake, The King’s Speech. It is a dull, uninteresting movie that appeals solely to the elderly and those who remember the events depicted in the film. On the high end of the spectrum is The Imitation Game, a well-made period piece that’s engaging for people of all ages and creates themes and messages that are still applicable to current times.

The Danish Girl is a 2015 film directed by Tom Hooper and stars Eddie Redmayne (two key figures to force The Danish Girl to fit on the spectrum) and Alicia Vikander. It follows the relationship between the painter Einar Wegener (Redmayne) and his wife Gerda (Vikander) as Einar goes through a transgender exploration which will eventually lead him to be the first person to undergo sex reassignment surgery.

Surprisingly, The Danish Girl falls decently high on The King’s Speech Spectrum. It’s beautifully shot and wonderfully engaging. Despite my hatred of Eddie Redmayne (I mainly hate the system for giving Redmayne an Oscar nomination and win in 2015 and that’s not Redmayne’s fault for gaming the broken system), he’s charming and engaging and the perfect person for this role. Not only does Redmayne have the physical features which make him a decently attractive female, but also the subtle acting chops to pull off this transformation. Alicia Vikander also caps off an outstanding year as Gerda struggles to both support Einar while also coming to terms with who he is. The film is actually seen through Gerda’s perspective, and despite the trend of queer and trans films that are actually about straight peopleThe Danish Girl works because of how relatable it is to modern time (as well as the performances).

The main thing that brings the film down on the spectrum is Tom Hooper’s direction. I don’t think Hooper has a distinct voice or vision (unless that vision is to be bland enough to win another Oscar) which in turn brings a level of drabness to the film that I imagine would put many people off. The film doesn’t feel like it was ever in the running to earn a Best Picture, Screenplay, or Direction nomination (and that’s completely fair IMHO) which is odd for a film that seems tailor made for a huge plurality of The Academy’s voting membership. I feel that a lot of that has to do with Hooper’s vision of the film about how unoriginal it looks.

However, despite Hooper,  I liked The Danish Girl. I think part of the reason I liked the film is because I had extremely low expectations for it. Unlike a film like The RevenantThe Danish Girl forced me to change my mind about how I felt about it. The film isn’t great and it probably wasn’t worth paying the $10 I spent seeing it in the theater, but it’s a wonderful $1 RedBox rental if you’re bored on a Sunday afternoon. I know that’s not the greatest praise for a film, but it’s still a film worth watching and a film that’s above the median on The King’s Speech Spectrum.



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