Reviews for The Danish Girl out of Venice range on the high side of mixed, although all the critics seem to agree that Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander elevate the film far above any reservations each critic might harbor.

Peter Debruge at Variety writes:

Clearly, this was never not going to be a “prestige” picture. And while that ultra-respectful approach will engender allergic reactions in some, who’d sooner see a gritty, realistic portrayal — a la Jill Soloway’s terrific “Transparent” series for Amazon — than one seemingly tailored for the pages of fashion and interior-design magazines, there’s no denying that Hooper and screenwriter Lucinda Coxon have delivered a cinematic landmark, one whose classical style all but disguises how controversial its subject matter still remains.

…Spotlighting the least-represented thread in the LGBT quilt, “The Danish Girl” clearly wants to untangle the trans experience from the blanket definition of homosexuality, using Lili’s rejection of Whishaw’s gay character and her interview with gender-confirmation surgeon Dr. Kurt Warnekros (Sebastian Koch, playing the sensitive pioneer) to distinguish the two. What’s of utmost importance here is the discovery and ultimate acceptance of Lili’s true identity, and from the film’s perspective, the gender question has nothing (or very little) to do with sex. Rather, it’s something that reveals itself at first in mirrors and other reflective surfaces, and later directly to camera, as Redmayne explores Einar’s hidden second persona.

As Hans puts it at a train sendoff that recalls “Casablanca,” “I’ve only really liked a handful of people in my life, and you’ve been two of them.” But Lili’s emergence is a gradual and hesitant process, beautifully embodied by Redmayne — and reflected by Vikander, whose Gerda does her best to adapt alongside her husband, amounting to a substantive role for the film’s resident “Swedish girl.” Shy at first, like a flower opening, Redmayne ducks his eyes and turns his head as Lili, his confidence growing in tandem with the rolling boil of Alexandre Desplat’s strings and piano score.

Alonso Duralde at The Wrap says:

Hooper’s stately storytelling style matches the material, since there are so many stages and intermediate steps involved in Einar fully becoming Lili, who goes so far as to undergo one of the very first gender-reassignment surgeries. And while the movie could have gotten more out of its supporting characters — there’s no doubt much more to know about Oola, Henrik and Einar’s boyhood friend Hans (Matthias Schoenaerts), who grew up to be a Paris art dealer — the delicate dance by which Einar becomes Lili and Gerda comes to love and accept this new person while mourning the loss of her husband remains fascinating all the same.

After all those wretched tight close-ups in “Les Misérables,” it’s a relief that Hooper and his usual cinematographer, Danny Cohen, allow these characters, searching for a way through their own lives, to get lost in vast spaces like hospital corridors and city blocks of Danish row houses. (We also get some nicely painterly moments, like a ballet studio where tutus hang in the rafters like indoor clouds.) Cohen and Hooper also make it a point to shoot Redmayne like Josef von Sternberg filming Marlene Dietrich, finding the androgynous actor’s best angles and lighting him like a screen queen of yore.

(More review excerpts to come)

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  • phantom

    I have deja vu review-wise here : Redmayne great, supporting wife great, film good enough. Just like The Theory of Everything. Could it also have a similar Oscar showing ! Probably.

  • phantom

    *question mark instead of exclamation point

  • m1

    It’ll be interesting to see how this plays at TIFF next week. I think the reviews will improve a bit.

  • The reviews at TIFF may adapt to how the critics want to frame this film for the ensuing awards season. Do they want to elevate it or do they want to denigrate it? They’ll respond however they deem most flattering to themselves, not to the film.

    How many Oscar nominations will Alexandre Desplat receive this year? He’s a pretty safe bet for at least one, unless the music branch revolts, having championed him now for the best part of a decade in pursuit of the award he deservingly won for The Grand Budapest Hotel in February. His score for Tale of Tales is one of the very best I’ve heard all year, though it’s unlikely that it receives a US release until next year.

  • phantom

    Interesting development : according to Scott Feinberg, surprisingly enough Cate Blanchett will pursue a supporting nomination for Carol after all, so she could go lead for Truth (damn, we are probably underestimating that one already), leaving room for Rooney Mara in lead who if her early buzz is any indication – prestigious Cannes win, youngest Telluride career honour – will be a very solid contender in lead, too…and if Mara goes lead, Vikander(‘s team) may opt for a downgrade and go for the win in supporting. We may just have our next Actress winners…well, clearly a stupid statement in early September, but if their category placement works out like this, I think the nominations (at least) WILL happen for both.

  • GoOnNow

    I can see why Kidman finally let go of this. Fells like the script was never superb to begin with.

  • phantom

    P.S. Another aspect to consider : Focus Features now has a strong Best Actress contender in Carey Mulligan (Suffragette) so putting Vikander (The Danish Girl), their other damn strong actress contender in supporting, may just seem like common sense to them. We’ll see. Long story short if Mara indeed goes lead and Mulligan becomes a major threat for the win (as an Oscarless previous nominee in an important prestige pic, I think she just might), Focus Features would be crazy to keep Vikander in lead, especially if she gets a lead campaign for another film (Ex Machina)…for the record, she should.

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  • I wonder what Todd Haynes, Gus Van Sant or Claire Denis could have done with the material (and Redmayne and Vikander). Most of the reviews I’ve read have an in-spite-of-Hooper-but-he -is-getting-better-at-this-directing-thing tone to them.

    The timing/subject matter and wonder-boy Eddie, who would manage to look good even in an Adam Sandler film, make this a shoo-in for Oscar attention.

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  • I’d expected Cate Blanchett to go supporting for Carol. I’ve never bought into the buzz around Rooney Mara winning for the film – she just doesn’t feel like the right person at the right time to me, from the Academy’s perspective – and I’ve felt that Cate would stand a stronger chance at winning if she went supporting. That’s the kind of showy, co-lead performance that can easily win character actors supporting Oscars. But I still expect Focus to campaign Alicia Vikander in lead. There’s possibly even more buzz for her atm than for Eddie Redmayne, and I’d almost consider her to be more of a frontrunner than Carey Mulligan rn.

  • Anya

    Vikander with her reviews doesn’t win in Leading. She has only good notice but not Raves. Even in Supportin a win will be difficult for her

  • John

    Great reviews or not (and I’m sure it will receive it’s fair share of solid reviews), this movie will still be a presence throughout the Season. The Redmayne campaign/transgender narrative will be strong. The narrative of Vikander is very strong. There will be AMPAS screenings galore. There will be emphasis put on the solid techs (Cin, Prod Design, Costumes, Score), etc..

  • Yeah from what I’m reading it’s Alicia Vikander the showstopper. Over and over again people say. Elated for Vikander of course; an astonishing talent, but this gives me even less hope for the movie as a whole. I’m strange that way. Also going by the critics Redmayne won’t come close to Fassy for the Oscar. Look for his challenger(s) elsewhere.

  • Dosser

    The Guy Lodge article about Vikander being the real winner of the film aside, I’m just not sure that there’s a consensus about Vikander one way or the other (which could itself signify the difficulty in her chances). Even the positive reviews of her work tend to be pithy compliments. Jessica Kaing suggested she might be the “MVP” of the film but preceded to give a lukewarm review. Variety’s Debruge said she “reflected” Redmayne’s embodiment of Elbe (thus framing her as a decent supporting player).

    Alonso Duralde and Geoffrey MacNab were very pleased with her work, but Johnathan Romney called said she lacked subtlety and was “over-emphatic.” A good number of reviews (like the Daily Mail’s Michael Roddy) either barely mention Vikander’s work or only mention it in reference to Redmayne’s.

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s still early in the review game and things could very well improve at Toronto. More importantly, it behooves us to remember that festival reviews (particularly European festival reviews) are a shoddy measure of American film award chances (Best Actress Rooney but not Blanchett at Cannes, just as a random example).

  • Ambra

    Vikander hasn’t raves. She’s co-lead and she barely got noticed for her performance. Even Variety review didn’t mentioned her. The only article that was written about her is from Lodge and there aren’t raves in it. She could even snobbed in leading. Her best chance (but difficult win) is in Supporting.

  • Alonso Duralde and Geoffrey MacNab were very pleased with her work, but Johnathan Romney called said she lacked subtlety and was “over-emphatic.”

    In other words, Jonathan Romney said she gave a performance that’d be right up Oscar’s street.

    A good number of reviews (like the Daily Mail’s Michael Roddy) either barely mention Vikander’s work or only mention it in reference to Redmayne’s.

    Sexism. Probably. Usually is.

  • gosh, it’s hard for me to resist buying into this neat new idea that Jonathan Romney, Alonso Duralde, Michael Roddy, and Geoffrey MacNab are plugged into Oscar voter mentality, but I think I can wait till we hear from a Brit critic whose opinion Oscar voters give a shit about. Which is actually none of them, so this could be a long cold dank drizzly wait.

  • Dosser

    Agreed! (Both to Paddy and Ryan). I’m sure more positive reviews (and awards merriment) will be in store for both leads. And obviously British critics are a sloppy oscar metric (along with festival critics). The only reason I listed the various reviews (at least those I could easily find on google) was to point to the inevitable lesson in oscar prognostication: “raves” is a term used surprisingly liberally and can refer to a range of reviews. This is simply the nature of “buzz.”

    For the record I’m excited to see more of Vikander after Ex Machina. With her eighty films out this year I’m sure she’ll find traction with one of the many horses she has in this race.

  • Emma

    “For the record I’m excited to see more of Vikander after Ex Machina. With her eighty films out this year I’m sure she’ll find traction with one of the many horses she has in this race.”

    Her only phony is The Danish Girl (Ex Machina isn’t AMPAS material; Testament of Youth isn’t a factor: it needed of a good Box Office to make a splash-it didn’t. Burnt is only a cameo; U.N.C.LE. was a flop)

  • Dosser

    Emma, any word on tulip fever? Also, has the light between oceans got a firm release date yet?

  • Emma

    Tulip Fever hasn’t good buzz and The Lights Between Oceans has rating (PG13), a test screening and no Festival? This isn’t good (BTW ian’t Oscar friendly)

  • Alicia Vikander is reminding me of Jessica Chastain in 2011 – astonishingly good year in work. Wowsers.

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