Dec. 8 2015 04:01 PM

Simplistic biopic about famous transgender pioneer leads our rundown of movies screening around town

The Danish Girl

We live in a world where Eddie Redmayne has won an Academy Award. Let that sink in for a second. It's not fair, right? Well, Hollywood doesn't play fair. Given the choice between obnoxious method acting and subtlety they'll choose the former every time.

The scenery-chewing specialist who's hammed it up in everything from The Theory of Everything to My Week With Marylyn is shooting for another gold statuette and I've taken on the challenge of stopping him. This review of The Danish Girl will achieve that goal. It will make a difference. Believe me. Please.

Redmayne stars as Lili Elbe, the Dutch painter who would become a transgender pioneer in 1920s Copenhagen. Instead of turning in a compassionate and progressive performance, Redmayne's is expectedly showy and grating. He uses each dramatic moment to physically convey the simplistic unease, distress and sadness of Lili's journey. At times he's so exaggerated I was convinced that Eddie Redmayne was doing a parody of Eddie Redmayne. Now that would be something.

The talented young actress Alicia Vikander stars opposite as Lili's wife Gerda, who first sees his infatuation with femininity as a curious trifle but quickly grows more isolated and confused. Their romance, as directed by Tom Hooper, feels scattershot and forced—a portrait of sacrifice, support and devotion put through the melodramatic ringer.

Making matters worse, The Danish Girl, which opens Friday, Dec. 11, looks as flat as a board. It has zero interest in composition, or any elements that might suggest film is a visual language. Hooper's never really liked lenses, except the fish eye, or color, except for gray.

However, the film's self-serving faux-progressiveness is a worse offense. Thanks to Redmayne's look-at-me self-importance, Lili is reduced to a simplistic martyr, her struggle relegated to a trite series of easily decipherable causes and effects.


Bikes vs. Cars: A new award-winning documentary that makes the case of bicycle use in the face of mass climate change. Screens through Thursday, Dec. 17, at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.

Hitchcock/Truffaut: Director and film critic Kent Jones weaves together footage from the famous interview sessions between Alfred Hitchcock and Francois Truffaut in this lovely documentary about cinematic style and film history. Screens through Thursday, Dec. 17, at the Ken Cinema.

In Jackson Heights: Frederick Wiseman’s sprawling portrait of the Queens neighborhood examines everything from local politics, cultural and religious practices, and the impending presence of gentrification. Screens through Thursday, Dec. 17, at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.

In the Heart of the Sea: In the 1820s, a sperm whale attacks a whaling ship, leaving over 90 sailors adrift at sea, including hunk Chris Hemsworth. This is not a prequel to Blackhat.

Life: A photographer from LIFE magazine gets a behind the scenes look at stardom when he’s asked to do a photo shoot with James Dean. Screens through Thursday, Dec. 17, at the Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.

Macbeth: Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard star in this bloody revisionist adaptation of the famous Shakespearean tragedy.

The Danish Girl: Danish painter and transgender pioneer Lili Elbe attempts to grapple with the emotional, social and psychological ramifications of her journey in 1920s Copenhagen.

One Time Only

The Secret World of Arrietty: A family of 4-inch tall sprites lives amongst humans, but their lives are changed forever when their rambunctious daughter Arietty is discovered by a young boy. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 9, at the Angelika Carmel Mountain Cinemas.

Elf: Buddy (Will Ferrell), a man raised as an elf in the North Pole, tries to find out the secret of his past by travelling to New York City. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 9, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.

A Christmas Story: What would you like for Christmas, Ralph? Screens at 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 10, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.

Love, Actually: Multiple stories of romance and heartbreak intersect in monder day London. Screens on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 11 and 12, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.

National Lampoon’s A Christmas Vacation: The Griswalds have high hopes for the Christmas holiday, but nothing goes according to plan. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 16, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.


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