The Theory of Everything was so calculated and mercenary in its intentions it might as well have been titled GIVE US OSCARS NOW PLEASE. It was unsubtle, and while yes, Eddie Redmayne was physically convincing as Stephen Hawking as ALS wrecked his body, there was no nuance anywhere in that movie, not even in Redmayne’s performance. It was the real-world equivalent of Kirk Lazarus’s speech in Tropic Thunder. Redmayne is not a subtle performer, so the trick is finding roles where his brand of commitment works within the film.
Like, say, The Danish Girl which just released its first trailer and looks GREAT. Literally, what a gorgeous looking movie. It’s directed by Tom Hooper, of King’s Speech and Les Miserables fame, so that’s not surprising. Hooper has an eye for period details and great light, and The Danish Girl also benefits from being set within the world of art and artists, increasing the aesthetics. Redmayne portrays Lili Elbe, a transgender woman and one of the first to receive sex reassignment surgery. Lili Elbe’s story is an important one, especially as transgender people are more visible than ever in our society—and yet still so marginalized—and Redmayne looks like he crushed it.
Look at the way Lili’s hand trembles as she touches the satin of a dress, and the tilt of her head when someone compliments her. These are subtle, very human tics. The transgender community is frequently dehumanized as a means of discrimination, but what is most striking about Redmayne in the trailer is how real and very human Lili is. Redmayne is always a little camp*, and it’s easy for him to cross the line from performance to caricature—like he did in Theory—but the trailer for The Danish Girl is very reassuring that those impulses are under control and he won’t be taking his performance as Lili Elbe over the top. This is going to be a major, major awards contender.
*I’m not dragging Redmayne’s talent. He’s just not the kind of actor who blends into an ensemble. You know who else doesn’t blend in and has a knack for transformative physical performances? Daniel Day-Lewis.