The near painfully topical “The Danish Girl” is an overlush film that simply tries too hard. Yet it is nevertheless elevated by a determinedly nonsensational performance by the sensational Swedish actress Alicia Vikander.

This is the true story of married artists Gerda (Vikander) and Einar Wegener (last year’s Oscar winner, Eddie Redmayne), living and painting in Copenhagen in the 1920s. One day a ballerina friend (Amber Heard) misses a sitting for a portrait Gerda is working on, so she asks Einar to sit holding the appropriate dress. Twinkles gleam in Einar’s eyes as he glimpses how life would be if he was a she.

Cue some harmless cross-dressing. Then Einar decides to attend a gala dressed in full drag, passing himself off as Einar’s cousin, Lili. At which point he gets hit on, and kissed, by a kindly gay fellow (Ben Whishaw, currently in four films playing theaters). Gender confusion is soon on full boil.

Except, this film coming from period piece master Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech”), that boil is rather stately. Essentially Einar decides he is Lili as he studies and models “female” mannerisms. And the ever-supportive-but-confused Gerda watches the man she married fade away and become a woman she’s barely met.

Obviously, this all plays to the “Transparent”-Caitlyn Jenner-transgender rights hot button topic of the moment. But Redmayne gets carried away with all the swishing and primping; even if he is a man trying to take on a woman’s characteristics, he moves too far toward caricature. This weakness is all the more apparent in light of Vikander’s thoroughly natural, lived in performance, which never strains.

“The Danish Girl” may be a film for our times, but it’s an overcooked film for our times.

‘The Danish Girl’


Rated R for some sexuality and full nudity

Running time: 120 minutes

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