Eddie Redmayne having won the Oscar for portraying Stephen Hawking as a person going through difficult physical changes, once again does this in The Danish Girl though this time the most extreme physical changes are purposefully chosen by his character. Of course, like The Theory of Everything, everything starts out in an average enough fashion as Redmayne plays Einar Wegener as a painter who is happily married to his wife, also a painter, Gerda (Alicia Vikander). There is nothing notable about Einar in Redmayne's hands. He basically keeps to a coy smile or two and that pseudo Hugh Grant style of speaking in slight jumbled way while blinking quite a lot. The most notable thing about him is his relationship with his wife, which is not really atypical they just evidently love each other, and I'll grant that Redmayne and Vikander have enough chemistry to make that believable. Redmayne though almost seems to strive to have nothing of note about him as he mostly keeps to some particularly blank reactionary glances in his scenes with Vikander, and to her credit she seems to be striving to create some sort of dynamic in their relationship. For most of his early scenes Redmayne is content with keeping Einar a man without substance. He has no motivations, very few emotions, no history, he might as well be a lump of clay ready to be molded by the story I suppose.
Now there are a few indications suggesting that there's something up with Einar, and those are the scenes where he is looking at women's clothing, or there's the first time where he wears a dress. Redmayne is a bit atrocious in these scenes. In the moments where he is glaring at the clothes he gives this psychotic intensity as though he's planning on murdering them later, and then when he puts on the clothes he acts as though he's suddenly been entranced by a spell. Redmayne's performance, as well as the film, both seem to suggest that Einar's personal joruney is all started just because of a fascination with women's wear, since Redmayne offers no other indications anywhere else. If there's some dresses around there's something up with Einar, when there's not he's perfectly content to be well just kind of a boring. Redmayne by making these moments so detached and separate actually seems to imply as though Lili is not who Einar truly is, but rather that Einar suffers from Dissociative identity disorder with Lili being a different personality entirely. To be fair the film itself treats it such. When there is a possibility of some sort of connection to be made, Redmayne wastes it though by instead instantly becoming a teary eyed troubled soul, which he portrays in a most overwrought fashion.
Well there's a bit of problem because Lili has no character. This was a similair issue I had with his character in The Theory of Everything but compared to this, that film featured a complex portrait of Stephen Hawking. There is nothing to Lili which the film itself seems to admit with the line "I want to be woman not a painter", so guess that just means all there is to Lili is womanhood in the broadest of broad senses. That in itself is a bit of a problem due to Redmayne basically already going about making a stereotype of a woman with every over the top mannerism he gives to Lili. The more one sees of Lili the more ridiculous Redmayne's act becomes as every little twitch and slight smile are so poorly conceived. The idea of Lili just being this artificial delicate flower becomes all the more prominent at the end of the film when one of Lili's operations goes wrong. Redmayne can't even die in a way that seems natural. With every one of his coughs and damaged expressions he seems to specifically want to present Lili's death as though Lili was this pure thing just too good for this world. Lili does not die in any real pain, Redmayne makes this that special sort of pain that one usually only sees when Bugs Bunny is pretending to die. The scene is suppose to be heartbreaking but it ended up being laughable because of Redmayne's ludicrous approach. Almost everything about this depiction was poorly thought out. The whole notion of the split personality is already a very questionable simplification, but hey it does give Redmayne a chance to give two bad performances. One as Einar, a bland man who is content in his blandness, the other being Lili, a caricature of a woman content with being such.