March 20, 2016

The Danish Girl is au courant but needed more grit; Ferrell and Wahlberg fail to recapture the magic of their last team-up


The Danish Girl ***

Dir:  Tom Hooper

Starring: Eddie Redmayne, Alicia Vikander, Matthias Schoenaerts, Ben Whishaw, Amber Heard

Adapted from the novel by David Ebershoff, The Danish Girl is a fictionalised account of the lives of Lili Elbe/Einar Wegener and Gerde Wegener. Einar Wegener was a fairly well-known Danish landscape artist in the earlier part of the last century who underwent possibly the very first documented case of sex reassignment surgery and came to be known by his alter-ego Lili Elbe. Einar’s wife was Gerde, also an artist and portraitist, who (re)awakens Einar’s suppressed female persona when she asks him to pose in place of an absent female portrait subject.

From then on it is a joint journey of adventure, confusion, anger, resentment, sadness, bitterness, even some happiness for the couple as Einer transitions to Lili, the persona which has come to dominate his/her existence, and who has become the chief subject of Gerde’s paintings. Eddie Redmayne is very good - if more mannered – in the more obviously showy part of Einar/Lili but the movie’s emotional core is provided by Alicia Vikander as Gerde. She is quietly terrific as a wife who struggles to be supportive of her husband and his needs but is also terrified of losing him forever. She was rewarded for her efforts with the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. However, for all that The Danish Girl comes at a time when transgender issues are much more in the public eye than ever before, the movie doesn’t really explore Einar/Lili’s transition from the inside out (as opposed to outside in) as much as it needed to. The movie needed to dig deeper and get its hands dirtier.

Other than Vikander, the movie received three other Academy Award nominations: Best Actor (Redmayne), Best Costume Design, Best Production Design

Cut to chase: Very topical but doesn’t get too far below the surface.


Daddy’s Home **

Dir:  Sean Anders

Starring: Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, Linda Cardellini, Hannibal Buress, Bobby Cannavale

Will Ferrell plays an earnest milquetoast desperate to be a good dad to his two stepchildren. But just when he seems to be making headway with the kids his world is rocked when their biological father (Mark Wahlberg) reappears on the scene. In increasingly desperate efforts to keep up with fast-talking, motor-cycle riding, muscle-rippling, possibly ex-government spy, Ferrell ends up making himself more and more of a laughingstock. Will he end up losing his family to his nemesis?

While there are some laughs to be derived from the physical discrepancies between Ferrell and Wahlberg you can only draw on that well so many times before your bucket comes up empty. Other sequences are similarly stretched far too thin to have a lasting impact and lack any genuine moments of creativity or inventiveness.

Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg’s earlier team-up was the surprisingly funny The Other Guys, a send-up of the buddy-cop action genre directed by Adam McKay of The Big Short fame. It succeeded partially because it subtly subverted the big screen personas of its stars, Wahlberg’s tough, buff action hero and Ferrell’s oblivious, clumsy man-child. Daddy’s Home - while still a comedy - reverts the two leading men to type and that is indicative of the movie’s by-the-numbers approach and lack of originality.

Cut to chase: This isn’t another The Other Guys.

[email protected]; Twitter: @KhusroMumtaz