While the world buzzes over Eddie Redmayne’s transformation as The Danish Girl, many are putting the actor on the short list for an Oscar nomination. I don’t doubt it. I’ve made the point here myself when we saw the trailer last week. The film looks powerful, honest and topical, and Redmayne, who seemed to literally channel Stephen Hawkings in The Theory of Everything appears to have done it again. For my part, being an ordinary movie lover like you, not a movie critic who gets to see early screenings and fly off to Venice and Telluride for film festivals, all this is based on nothing but the trailer, and that buzz in the air, of course.
But as film critic Guy Lodge notes in Variety, all The Danish Girl hoopla glosses over rising star Alicia Vikander —who Lodge dubs The Swedish Girl—and who could be a real contender for an Oscar herself.
Through all this advance hype, rising Swedish star Alicia Vikander’s presence in the film has been treated as something as an afterthought — even as she scored a popular breakthrough this spring in Alex Garland’s cult-attracting sci-fi pic “Ex Machina.” It wasn’t her only notable performance of the year’s first half: She was wrenching as WWI diarist Vera Brittain in “Testament of Youth,” even if the lush Sony Classics release went underseen by auds. She’s been present in multiplexes, too, though “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” gave her little to work with and “Seventh Son” is a film all concerned would rather forget. “Tulip Fever,” “The Light Between Oceans” and “Burnt” are all in the 2015 pipeline; it’s the kind of year’s work that often yields awards by dint of sheer saturation.
Yet the surprise of “The Danish Girl” — and it’s a film of few surprises, taking precisely the decorous, crowd-pleasing approach to tricky subject matter that one would expect from Hooper’s previous work — is that it’s as much Vikander’s showcase as it is Redmayne’s. As told in Lucinda Coxon’s screenplay, Gerda’s story is as emotionally compelling as Lili’s, as she has to override her own desires and reservations in order to set her husband free. The film is fashioned very much as the story of a marriage in crisis, forced to end despite deep reserves of love on either side. Toggling sensuality and sensitivity, with a latent streak of anger throughout, Vikander plays her half beautifully: It’s not as tonally exciting as her “Ex Machina” turn, and a little more limpid than her current career peak of “Testament of Youth,” but with a fair wind for the film itself, it’s the stuff that best actress campaigns are built upon.While the rest of the cast isn’t garnering much attention, one can’t help but notice director Tom Hooper has an impressive supporting bunch: Matthias Schoenaerts, Ben Whishaw and Amber Heard. The film opens in the states on November 27th, with first of the year openings for the UK and beyond. In the meantime The Danish Girl goes to the Toronto International Film Festival next week. I’m hoping for the release of additional images from the film and obviously we’ll want to take a closer look at the costume design by Paco Delgado who worked with Hooper on Les Miz. It looks glorious. The score by my composer crush Alexandre Desplat is apparently oscar-worthy too. Of course, I could have told you that!