10:30pm PT by Scott Feinberg
TIFF: 'The Danish Girl' Makes Oscar Players of Alicia Vikander and Eddie Redmayne (Yes, Again)
In the year of Caitlyn Jenner, Laverne Cox, Transparent and the emergence and acceptance of transgender people in large swaths of the western world, it's only fitting that a top Oscar contender in categories across-the-board is a film about a trans person: The Danish Girl, an adaptation, by Lucinda Coxon, of David Ebershoff's 2000 novel, directed by Oscar winner Tom Hooper (The King's Speech) and starring Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) as a gender-conflicted artist in 1920s Copenhagen.
The moving drama had its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival's Princess of Wales Theatre on Saturday night. Its world premiere happened at the Venice Film Festival back on Sept. 5, and Focus Features will release it in the U.S. on Nov. 27.
Read more 'The Danish Girl': Venice Review
The Danish Girl not only captures the zeitgeist but is also impeccably made. It boasts gorgeous production design (Oscar nominee Eve Stewart), cinematography (Oscar nominee Danny Cohen), costumes (Oscar nominee Paco Delgado), makeup and hairstyling (Jan Sewell), film editing (Melanie Oliver), music (Oscar winner Alexandre Desplat) — all of which could attract Academy recognition. But its surest bets for noms are Redmayne and his costar Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina), the fast-rising Swedish actress.
Redmayne, who could well become the first performer to win Oscars in consecutive years since Tom Hanks won for 1993's Philadelphia and 1994's Forrest Gump, gives a ballsy (forgive me), no-holds-barred, truly transformational performance of such sincerity and sensitivity that even those fiercely resistant to the idea of transgenderism may reconsider their position. It's all the more remarkable that he gave this performance — his third for Hooper, following the 2005 TV movie Elizabeth I and 2012's Les Miserables — while he was simultaneously in the midst of last Oscar season's insanity!
As for Vikander, who plays a woman who loves the person she married too much to jump ship when he becomes she, the only question is whether she'll be campaigned for as a lead or supporting actress. In my view, she would be wise to pursue a supporting nom — even though her screen time isn't much less than Redmayne's, her character is literally supporting his (and serving as a surrogate for the audience), a function not unlike the one Jennifer Connelly served en route to winning the supporting actress Oscar for 2001's A Beautiful Mind. Either way, this is a career-changing film for her.
At the end of the day, The Danish Girl may not pack as much of an emotional punch for, or be of as much immediate interest to, Academy members — most of whom, we know, are of a certain age — as was, say, The King's Speech or The Theory of Everything, both of which also screened at TIFF in the Princess of Wales Theatre. But its beauty and timeliness ought to make up for that enough to land it in the same place those films did: the best picture race.