The inherent issue with Tom Hooper’s latest film is that it is yet another example of the experiences of a historically marginalised group being told through a privileged lens. Namely, a cisgender (cis) male director directs a cis male actor to convey an experience which they could not possibly understand.
It is an issue which has dominated the critical debate up to this point and convincing arguments can be made for both sides. Regardless, no matter what side of the debate you sway towards, The Danish Girl remains a massively flawed gem.
It is business as usual for Hooper, making another halfway decent but altogether flawed film which smells a little too strongly of Oscar bait – you can almost hear him composing his Best Director Oscar acceptance speech from behind the camera. Despite this perhaps overly cynical assertion, there is a lot to like about the film. First, it is beautifully visualised; every frame drips with a classical beauty which nicely mirrors the environment extant within them. Moreover, if we are to briefly forego the aforementioned controversy, Eddie Redmayne does a capable enough job at playing Lili Elbe. He competently convinces the viewer that they are watching someone who is uncomfortable in their own skin and develops this into an equally convincingly composed resolve to change his situation.
There are clearly things that the film does well, but nonetheless it is nowhere near as arresting as it should have been. Hooper seems terrified to offend his audience and as such a lot of Lili’s struggle is brushed over in a far less meaningful way than is perhaps deserved. Consequently, the climax of the film is utterly underwhelming, as what should have been an interesting and admirable story plods to a conclusion which should have been obvious in the first place. Most frustratingly, it is here that Hooper treats his audience like idiots, driving home his point with the heaviest of heavy handed symbolisms in recent memory.
Overall, The Danish Girl is a film that is good enough for the viewer to realise that it should have been better.
Image: Gordon Correll; Wikimedia Commons