by Gregg Shapiro
Depending on how you felt about David Ebershoff’s Lambda Literary Award-winning novel, you will either love or hate Tom Hooper’s film adaptation of the Oscar-nominated The Danish Girl (Focus/Universal). Screenwriter Lucinda Coxon trims quite a bit from Ebershoff’s dense book and even diverts from the original ending.
That said, Hooper’s treatment of the tale, “loosely” based on a true story, is both sensitive and visually captivating. Married artists Einar (Eddie Redmayne) and Gerda (Alicia Vikander) are each attempting to make a name for themselves within the artistic community of 1920s Copenhagen. Einar, a landscape painter, has achieved more recognition than portrait painter Gerda. But all of that changes when the lithe and delicately-featured Einar stands in for a female model in a painting that Gerda has yet to complete.
The experience has an unexpected impact on Einar who suddenly finds himself drawn to cross-dressing, and even stirs up the memory of a youthful homosexual dalliance. The free-thinking Gerda is, at first, supportive of Einar (they attend a party with him dressed as his alter-ego Lili). The reception that Gerda’s series of paintings of Lili receives elevates her status and even allows her to surpass Einar.
However, it doesn’t take long for things to start unraveling as Lili takes over Einar’s identity, leading Lili to seek out medical options to fully transition into her true self. As a film about artists, director Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl is an artistic achievement. It’s simply stunning to behold. Equally dazzling are Oscar-winner Redmayne’s exceptional and insightful portrayal of transgender forerunner Einar/Lili and 2015 breakout star Vikander’s (see also Ex Machina and Testament of Youth) embodiment of Gerda. Both actors received Oscar nominations for performances that are nothing less than brilliant. The lone bonus feature is a “making of” featurette.
Based on the 2009 Oscar-winning foreign film, Secret In Their Eyes(STX/Universal) is one of those American remakes that simply pales in comparison to the original. Part of the problem is the complete lack of chemistry between lead actors Chiwetel Ejiofor and Nicole Kidman. Most of the film is set in Los Angeles, but it might as well be Antarctica, it’s so chilly. Plus, while not nearly as traumatizing as Kiss without makeup, Julia Roberts playing frumpy just doesn’t have any traction.
Secret In Their Eyes moves back and forth in time from the post- 9/11 world of 2002 Los Angeles to the present day. While closely observing the activity in an L.A. mosque, counter-terrorism experts Ray (Ejiofor) and Jess (Roberts) and their boss Claire (a stiff Nicole Kidman) are inadvertently caught up in a devastating tragedy. Jess’ daughter Carolyn (Zoe Graham) is murdered and one of the suspects is somehow connected to the mosque.
The primary force in the movie is confusion. Ray is convinced that after spending more than a dozen years searching for Carolyn’s killer Marzin (Joe Cole) that he has located him. But Jess, intent on keeping Ray at a distance, knows more about Marzin’s whereabouts than she cares to share. In addition to the gaping plot holes, the worst thing about Secret In Their Eyes is how surprisingly predictable it is, right down the big reveal. Blu-ray+DVD+Digital HD bonus features include an interview with Roberts, commentary by director/screenwriter Billy Ray and more.