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Laramie Movie Scope:
The Danish Girl

Famous 1920's transgendered painter and wife

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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November 28, 2015 -- This movie, based on a true story and a book of the same name by David Ebershoff, is about an early and famous historical case of an openly transgendered man and his experimental sex reassignment surgery. Although the film does have some nudity, as expected, it is fairly tasteful in its depiction of some subjects that, to some people, are still taboo.

The movie is loosely based on the lives of Danish painter Einar Wegener (AKA Lili or Lilly, Elbe) and his wife, illustrator and painter Gerda Marie Fredrikke Gottlieb. The film opens in 1926 and ends in 1931. The film combines some events and leaves out some details in order to get the basic story told in two hours.

Wegener (played by Academy Award Winner Eddie Redmayne of “The Theory of Everything”) is shown behaving as a man at first, but his female persona, Lili, increasingly becomes dominant over time. Although Wegener was always drawn to his female identity, it began to become more dominant when he dressed up in female clothing as a model to fill in for his wife's absentee model.

Wegener's wife, Gerda (played by Alicia Vikander of “Ex Machina”) is increasingly distressed by her husband's behavior, and tries to get him to change, influencing him to seek the help of a whole string of doctors. One subjects his groin area to intense radiation in an attempt to cure him. Others seek to lock him up like a criminal. None help, until he finds a doctor who suggests experimental sex reassignment surgery.

The film depicts Wegener's increasing female identity as primarily a marital problem, with Gerda finding herself increasingly isolated from her husband. I did not see any mention in the film some aspects of Gerda's history, such as her lesbian paintings, or her own bisexual or lesbian preferences. She is shown as being essentially straight in this film.

Wegener is shown kissing another man, a homosexual, and being groped by him. Gerda also kisses another man, Hans Axgil (Matthias Schoenaerts of “The Drop”) and becomes his friend later in the film. The film's ending is a simplified version of history. In real life, Gerda remarried (to an Italian named Fernando Porta) after her husband's death, but divorced five years later.

The acting performances in the film by Redmayne and Vikander are great. In any normal year, Redmayne would be a shoo-in for an Academy Award, but he just got one last year, so he may not get it again this year. The Academy loves these gender-bending roles. The film itself is good, but not great, like so many Oscar-bait movies. It tries too hard to be safe and inoffensive. It depicts Gerda and Redmayne as martyrs, when they really are not that. Gerda made a lot of money exploiting her husband's cross-dressing looks. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2015 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)