People go to see movies for many different reasons. Some people see movies to be entertained, while others want to learn the details of a story. The majority of people who see The Danish Girl fall into the latter category. The film is another biographic film that tells the story of Lili Elbe, the first person to undergo a sex reassignment surgery. The film is directed by Tom Hooper and stars Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander. The movie is the latest in a long line of movies based on true stories. I’m not sure if this is a recent trend or if biographic movies have been around for a while. It seems like a lot more have been popping up lately. I think The Imitation Game represents the best realization of this formula to date.
The problem with only seeing movies based on true stories is that there is no imagination involved. You might as well be reading a non-fiction book. History is filled with important people who led interesting lives. The task of filmmakers nowadays is to pick the true stories that can be successfully adapted into films. Why would you exert the effort to create something brand new when there are so many preexisting stories? Biographic films are a win-win for directors who want to avoid work and audience members who see movies to learn.
So should you see The Danish Girl?
Well, it depends on how important you think the story is. If you are interested in the transgender experience, chances are that you’ve already seen the movie. I must admit, the film makes you empathize with Redmayne’s character. “It doesn’t matter what I am, it only matters what I dream.” he says. Late in the movie, Elbe reveals that if he cannot become a woman, he will most likely commit suicide. He is literally two personas within one body. Now this is where I would start asking the most questions. Believing that you are a woman’s mind trapped in a man’s body is more an aberration than anything else. I’m not really sure what to say about this. To Elbe, being a woman is so much better than being a man, that he would rather die than remain alive in a man’s body. This seems a bit extreme, but who is anyone to deny another person’s emotional experience? This is a difficult topic to discuss and I would welcome any insight.
The Danish Girl is a well-made movie but it lacks the entertainment value that I desire. Telling Elbe’s story is an honorable motive and I think everyone who worked on this movie deserves credit. Both Redmayne and Vikander are amazing in this movie, I would hesitate to recommend this movie to any of my close friends. If you don’t get out to the movies very often, there are other films that are more deserving of your time and money. I recommend catching this one when it comes out on Netflix, since seeing it on a smaller screen won’t change your experience that much.
A few weeks ago I watched Creed, the seventh iteration in the Rocky franchise. The movie stars Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Creed and Sylvester Stallone as Rocky. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the film. Having only seen the original Rocky, I have no investment in the franchise. I am so accustomed to reboots being less effective than originals. We live in an age where it seems like every movie is a reboot, because the only way to make money is to make something that people will recognize. No one is willing to risk their chance of being entertained on an unknown.
I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with reboots. I am actually happy when things from my past are remade. It provides the chance to re-experience something that I love in a new way. It also gives me a window to see what people liked before I was born. Five years ago, I had no familiarity with the Rocky movies. I had some experience with them from their famous iconography, mainly from parodies. People, punching meat, running up the stairs in Philadelphia, etc. But I had no who Sylvester Stallone was or why the original film spawned so many sequels.
Thanks to current podcasts and movie reviews, I have gained an appreciation for the Rocky films. The original Rocky is a phenomenal experience. It’s an uplifting underdog story that makes you feel good. Rocky doesn’t even win his final boxing match but his participation alone feels like a victory. Just competing in the ring with Apollo Creed is enough. I feel this idea is the true core of Rocky. The idea of not being influenced by anyone else’s ideas. Rocky doesn’t cry and bemoan his loss. He knows that his journey to the final match was worth it. He doesn’t need to win because victory alone doesn’t mean anything to him.
I feel this message is carried into Creed. Adonis does not win his fight either but his effort is still inspiring. Without effort, victory is nothing. Creed succeeds because it maintains this message. I recommend the movie to everyone.
The Gift is an effective thriller that suffers from a flawed ending. Joel Edgerton’s film stars Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall as a seemingly happy couple starting a new chapter of their lives. Simon (Jason Bateman) becomes reacquainted with an old school chum named Gordo (played by Edgerton himself). It becomes clear that these two men share a sinister history and the nature of this history is the mystery of the film. (Spoilers lie ahead).
As the movie progresses, Simon’s real character is revealed and it is not pretty. Simon was a bully in the past and does not seem to be much better in the present. He manipulates his wife and ruins a co-worker’s career to get a promotion. He’s a rude dude who resorts to childish tactics such as name-calling and physical violence. It’s thrilling to slowly learn the extent of Simon’s wickedness. Edgerton is skilled at revealing just enough satisfying clues while keeping the audience guessing what will come next. The Gift has as much narrative tension as any film this year and that is reason enough to recommend it.
Here’s the thing, the movie concludes on a note that left me scratching my head. In the end, the film settles on being a revenge narrative, similar to a film like Oldboy. We find out that Gordo has filmed himself sneaking into Simon’s home wearing a monkey mask, while Robyn is passed out. This raises the question of whether or not Gordo has rapes Robyn. This behavior departs sharply from the actions previously taken by Gordo and its definitely a bummer ending. While I wanted to see Simon get his comeuppance, it’s hard to wish this kind of trauma on anyone, even an abusive bully. It’s a remarkably black ending for a film that travels through so many shades of grey. I recommend The gift because it will entertain but please be aware that most will leave with a sour taste in their mouth.