The Danish Girl

Focus Features

Rated R for sexuality and full-frontal nudity

Eddie Redmayne Delivers Another Oscar-Quality Performance As Sexual Preference Pioneer 

In 2015, Eddie Redmayne won the Best Actor Oscar for his poignant portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory Of Everything. While Eddie earned the picture’s only Oscar, he really owed a debt of gratitude to Hawking as well as his nominated co-star Felicity Jones. After all, she did a terrific job as his wife, Jane, in service of a character-tale turn which focused more on the unfortunate arc of the couple’s ill-fated relationship than on the wheelchair-bound genius’ contributions to the field of theoretical physics. Furthermore, Hawking himself imbued the production with an air of authenticity by allowing his impersonator to use the actual synthesized voice he’s relied upon since being crippled by ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).

In The Danish Girl, Redmayne plays another icon who is virtually upstaged onscreen by an intriguing spouse. Here, he plays Einar Wegener aka Lili Elbe (1882-1931), a Danish artist best remembered as a pioneer in the transgender movement.

Directed by Oscar-winner Tom Hooper (for The King’s Speech), the film was adapted from David Ebershoff’s novel of the same name. The book is based on a fictionalized account of Lili’s life, although her sexual reassignment surgery is factual. Redmayne’s androgynous appearance helps the movie immeasurably, as he is very convincing as a female. And the picture couldn’t be more timely, given the culture’s embrace of Bruce Jenner’s transformation into Caitlyn.

The picture’s point of departure is Copenhagen in the Roaring Twenties, which is where we find Einar and his wife Gerda (Alicia Vikander) both plying their trade as aspiring artists. Her preference is portraiture, while he’s only been inspired to paint the same desolate landscape marked by a clump of spindly, barren trees.

Anyhow, the plot thickens after Gerda suggests he serve as a stand-in for the beautiful ballerina (Amber Heard) she was supposed to paint that day. Einar dons female attire and finds himself enjoying the experience more than expected.

Next thing you know, he’s dressing in drag all the time, and even attends a dance where he finds an ardent admirer (Ben Whishaw) who may or may not know he’s a man. The ensuing triangle puts a strain on the marriage, although a little infidelity pales in comparison to the challenge posed by the fateful decision to undergo the first sex change operation.

Redmayne would be the favorite to win another Academy Award for this touching tour de force, if he hadn’t just netted an Oscar a year ago.

 

Excellent (4 stars)

Running time: 120 minutes

 

 

The Big Short

Paramount Pictures

Rated R for nudity, sexuality and pervasive profanity

Adaptation Of Michael Lewis Best Seller Chronicles Financial Collapse of 2008

Michael Lewis’ The Big Short was an eye-opening best seller chronicling the machinations on the part of a quartet of Wall Street contrarians (played by Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell and Brad Pitt) who accurately forecast the global financial crisis of 2008. The four made a mint by investing in Credit Default Swaps (CDS) in anticipation of the collapse of the market in Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDO).

In layman’s terms, these proverbial smartest guys in the room basically bet that the real estate bubble would burst, because of the easy money being lent unqualified borrowers via subprime mortgages. The banks didn’t mind making so-called NINJA loans (No Income/No Job) since they would quickly sell the worthless instrument to unsuspecting investors just about as soon as the deals were completed.

Despite a plethora of decent performances, the screen version of The Big Short fails to do justice to the source material. The movie marks Adam McKay’s first foray into dramatic fare. The veteran writer/director has enjoyed quite a career in comedy, which is reflected in a resume that includes Anchorman (2004), Talladega Nights (2006), Step Brothers (2008) and The Other Guys (2010), The Campaign (2012), Anchorman 2 (2013) and Get Hard (2015).

The film suffers from a few glaring flaws. The first is the fact that the names of all the key players have been changed. Since this is based on a true story, resorting to fictional characters serves to lessen the intensity of a tale that could’ve been quite compelling.

The movie is further trivialized by a failure to commit fully to drama, a no-no, given the serious subject matter. After all, no one has been held responsible for the crash, leaving much of the country still miffed about the billion-dollar bailout of Wall Street at the expense of Main Street.

Equally annoying are several celebrity cameos by the likes of chef Anthony Bourdain, Aussie actress Margot Robbie and pop diva Selena Gomez. During distracting, fourth-wall breaking appearances, they face the camera to explain the meaning of derivatives and other arcane financial instruments. McKay ostensibly included these interludes to make his jargon-laden script more accessible.

A disappointingly dry lecture in finance strictly with egghead appeal that manages to squander the services of an A-list cast composed of Academy Award winners (Marisa Tomei, Melissa Leo and Christian Bale) and nominees (Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling and Steve Carell).

 

Fair (1.5 stars)

Running time: 130 minutes

 

 

OPENING THIS WEEK

Kam’s Kapsules:

For movies opening December 18, 2015

 

Alvin And The Chipmunks: The Road Chip (PG for mile rude humor) Fourth installment in the animated/live action series finds Alvin (Justin Long), Simon (Matthew Gray Gubler) and Theodore (Jesse McCartney) hatching a plan to sabotage their adoptive dad’s (Jason Lee) plans to marry a woman (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) they’ve mistakenly assumed would make a mean stepmother. With Kaley Cuoco, Anna Faris and Bella Thorne.

 

Sisters (R for drug use, and pervasive profanity and crude sexuality) Sibling rivalry comedy about two sisters, one promiscuous (Tina Fey), one prudish (Amy Poehler), who throw a wild party in their childhood home after their parents put the house on the market. Ensemble includes Maya Rudolph, Kate McKinnon, John Leguizamo, James Brolin and John Cena.

 

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (PG-13 for violence) Director J.J. Abrams assumes the reigns of the franchise for the inaugural adventure of a trilogy unfolding three decades after Return Of The Jedi. This installment finds Hans Solo (Harrison Ford) and company squaring off against new nemesis Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and his army of evil Stormtroopers. Principal cast includes familiar faces Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher as well as newcomers Oscar Isaac, Daisy Ridley, Lupita Nyong’o and Domnhall Gleeson.

 

The Emperor’s New Clothes (Unrated) Russell Brand stars in this class conscious exposé examining the wealth gap between the rich and poor exacerbated by the global financial collapse of 2008.

 

Extraction (R for violence, sexuality, brief nudity and pervasive profanity) Revenge thriller about a geeky government bureaucrat (Kellan Lutz) who goes vigilante when his CIA agent father (Bruce Willis) is kidnapped by terrorists. With Gina Carano, D.B. Sweeney and Summer Altice.

 

The Lady In The Car With Glasses And A Gun (Unrated) Remake of the 1970 thriller of the same name about a secretary (Freya Mavor) who takes her boss’ (Benjamin Biolay) convertible for a joyride after dropping him off at the airport, only to end up the prime suspect for a murder she didn’t commit. Cast includes Stacy Martin, Elio Germano and Thierry Hancisse. (In French with subtitles)

 

Noma: My Perfect Storm (Unrated) Gourmet documentary about chef Rene Redzepi, proprietor of Noma, the Copenhagen restaurant voted best in the world for four years running.

 

Son Of Saul (R for graphic nudity and disturbing violence) Holocaust saga, set in Auschwitz in 1944, revolving around a Jewish prisoner’s (Geza Rohrig) desperate effort to give his gassed son a proper burial after saving the corpse from the crematorium. With Levente Molnar, Urs Rechn and Todd Charmont. (In German, Hungarian, Yiddish and Polish with subtitles)

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