Last year, Eddie Redmayne was physicist Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything;” now he’s the male painter Einar Wegener who becomes Lili, “The Danish Girl.” Once again, he plays a man born in a body out-of-sync with his mind. Once again, he delivers an astonishing performance. “I was always pretty,” Einar says. “You just never noticed.” A Redmayne performance is so transformative, you “never notice” the actor; you see only the character. It’s all a magical – and complete – disappearing act. It makes the roles he chooses exceptionally convincing. Directed by Tom Hooper – who made “The King’s Speech” – this is a fictionalized story of a man who believed he was a woman trapped in a man’s body. In 1930, he had the first publicly known sex reassignment surgery to make his transformation complete.
Redmayne’s portrayal of the woman inside is delicate, evocative, fascinating in its nuance. He carries us through a transformation that is as much mental as it is physical. Redmayne’s talent makes this a fully-absorbing character portrayal; as his wife, Alicia Vikander’s grace elevates it to a tragic love story. Her performance is as important as his. She makes this a movie about being strong in broken places, about learning to understand and being willing to let go, about the bonds of marriage and the meaning of compassion. Director Hooper is respectful of what both are going through. Although his third act is overly-long, he creates a movie that’s poignant, thought-provoking, beautifully photographed, and just so very sad. Every year, members of the Motion Picture Academy only like a handful of portrayals well enough to present the Oscar for Best Male Performance in a Leading Role. Last year as Stephen Hawking, Redmayne won his first. This year, as Einar/Lili, he deserves a second. Consider that a prediction.