Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The First Trailer for "The Danish Girl" is a Compelling Look at the First Transgender Woman

Eddie Redmayne
With the start of September, we officially have crossed the threshold into Oscar Season. While this is the dry month where not a lot happens (Black Mass could still surprise us), it is time to gear up and see the season take shape. There's nothing more apropos to do so than to have the debut of the first trailer for director Tom Hooper's The Danish Girl. In a year where there is going to be a lot of potential candidates from LGBT films (see also: Freeheld and Carol), this is among the front runners thanks to the presence of last year's Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne (Best Actor - The Theory of Everything). From what the trailer holds, it's going to be another promising year for the actor and director.

To summarize, I have a mixed opinion on Hooper's work. While I am tepid on The King's Speech, I do find myself in awe of Les Miserables' audacity. He isn't necessarily a visually knockout director, but I do think that his style services the period piece drama rather effectively with his biggest achievement being in the miniseries John Adams. He brings his characters to life and makes you care. Because of my love for his 2012 musical adaptation, The Danish Girl has been high on my anticipation list. It also helps that I really like Redmayne, who for some reason has gotten a bad rap for being too sentimental as Stephen Hawking. 

What I am more looking forward to is if this will be the gayest year for Oscars in quite some time. As I mentioned this past summer, gay-themed movies aren't common Best Picture nominees and less often are rewarded for positive portrayals. There was last year's The Imitation Game, which whitewashed Alan Turing's sexuality in favor of a more generic story. Meanwhile, this year looks to have a lot of films from prominent filmmakers including Hooper and Todd Haynes (Carol). Hopefully as one of the last iconic LGBT films to be nominated for Best Picture (Brokeback Mountain) turns 10 years old this year, that we can see considerable progress.

Check out the trailer below:

Looks really good. Here's the plot description according to IMDb:
The remarkable love story inspired by the lives of artists Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener. Lili and Gerda's marriage and work evolve as they navigate Lili's groundbreaking journey as a transgender pioneer.
If nothing else, this will be a hot button issue movie this Fall. While we have seen LGBT films before, there have been very few to deal directly with transgender issues. The most recent example is Dallas Buyers Club, which won Jared Leto a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Even then, he was a supporting player and not the central focus. This story looks to focus more directly with the procedure of the first transgender woman, as played by Redmayne. I do worry that it may be a little tame and misleading, but Hooper has proven himself to be a good enough filmmaker to get the facts right.

Not to take away credit from the film, but I do hope that one day the concept of an actual transgender performer won't be so daunting. In the Oscar's rich history, they remain one of the most overlooked groups. Of course, society is only starting to discuss it thanks to a mix of the Golden Globe-winning series Transparent, Laverne Cox on Orange is the New Black, and the controversial Caitlyn Jenner. Even then, transgender movies exist - most notably with the independent film Tangerines that was shot exclusively on camera phones. While I see embracing this type of cinema with The Danish Girl is a great start, I do think that it is the next step that hopefully this film will indirectly inspire.

But for now, The Danish Girl looks to be another good Hooper film. It would seem doubtful to not expect this to make some traction, especially given Hooper's recent track record. I also think that Redmayne looks quaint enough to pull off the look. The trailer only provides glimpses into the final product, and I am sold. I also hope that this is a great launchpad for Alicia Vikander (who was great in Ex-Machina) as The Theory of Everything was for Felicity Jones. Will it win? One can only speculate. For me, it's almost definitely worth considering at this point.

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