Today, the first official trailer for the hotly anticipated fall release The Danish Girl surfaced online. (We’ve embedded it above.) As the major studios ready their awards-season racehorses, The Danish Girl is starting to look like a prize pony: it’s been impeccably bred from past award-winners Eddie Redmayne — gunning for a back-to-back Best Actor prize after last year’s win for The Theory of Everything, a move commonly referred to as “Hanking” in recognition of Tom Hanks’ 1993 and 1994 statuettes — and Tom Hooper, director of the well-decorated The King’s Speech and Les Miserables. Hooper’s working two angles the Academy has historically shined kindly on in the past, too. The film’s setting of 1920s Copenhagen opens up opportunities for the meticulous period art direction that sweeps technical categories, and the subject matter courts the faction of the Academy drawn to pictures that address important contemporary issues.
In this instance, that subject matter happens to be the burgeoning push for transgender visibility and rights. The Danish Girl tells the true story of Lili Elbe, a trans woman who broke ground by becoming the first recipient of full gender confirmation surgery. Born Einar Wegener, Elbe first posed as a woman for her wife (portrayed in the film by Alicia Vikander, completing a strong year after the successes of Ex Machina and The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) in one of her paintings, and when it met with a rapturous reception from the public, Elbe agreed to pose once more, gradually realizing her true gender identity. It’s a bold, vital topic for a film with a profile this high to address, but some trans advocates have cried foul. Focus Features drew fire for their choice to cast Redmayne, a cisgender actor, in one of the regrettably scarce trans roles in the filmic landscape today. Others have objected to The Danish Girl on strictly aesthetic grounds, citing Redmayne’s overwrought work in The Theory of Everything and his more transparently overwrought performance in Jupiter Ascending as red flags for the project.
Is this an Oscar juggernaut in the making, or a misguided lunge at topicality? Sound off in the comments below!