Two of the latest transgender movies--a GG's "review." More like free flowing thoughts and analysis!
I LOVE watching movies and will watch just about anything, any genre, any subject matter. It's definitely my favorite pastime, and my husband's too! Here are two movies that came out in 2015. Some possible spoilers ahead, but both movies are relatively straightforward, so nothing big is revealed in my writing. But still, for those who love to go into movies without knowing even a teensy bit (like me), read this after you see the movie (like me, I read reviews after I see the movie).
My husband and I watched this movie late last year. I didn't have my hopes up as I heard it was shot exclusively on an iPhone. How good can a movie be that's shot on an iPhone?! Oh, it can be GOOD! GREAT! We were captivated right away. It had that authentic indie film feel. We were quickly thrust into the trans prostitution world. The dialogue was realistic and funny, the acting was sooooo good by newcomer transgender actress Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor (first transgender woman to win a best actress Independent Spirit Award for a previous movie). We were laughing out loud so many times, yet there were many touching and nuanced moments that really showed off Rodriguez's range. By the end, you realize it's a story about how we are all lonely in this world, and how we need each other--how we need that close friendship/human connection with at least one other human being. Especially the lonely, unforgiving, and isolated world of transgender "ladies of the night."
Okay, so the con is...they're prostitutes.... I imagine some of you cringe, similar to a black person who sees yet another black actor playing a gangbanger. So it's not a transgender story showing doctors, lawyers, salespeople, IT techs, politicians, mothers, fathers, husbands and wives who are transgender. But...it IS a reality, coming from someone who used to go clubbing in LA (mostly gay clubs with my guy friends), coming home, you'd see a vast array of prostitutes on the streets of LA.
My hubby and I spent a lot of time discussing this film afterwards. He would use he/him when discussing the characters, and I would say she/her. I didn't think it was that big a deal to correct him (should I have?)...but the funny thing is, when Kaitlyn came to be, I remember bringing something up and calling her Bruce Jenner, and my husband quickly retorted, "It's Kaitlyn!" Oops, sorry, that's what I meant to say! Oh yeah, and he does say she/her when talking about Kaitlyn.
Anyway, back to Tangerine. With the Oscars So White controversy, people kept saying there needs to be more opportunities for black people. While that's very true, there WERE a lot of movies that were snubbed. Tangerine had a lot of Oscar buzz when it came out. I definitely think it could have been nominated (if the movie Precious could be! Come on, this was better, in my opinion.) Also, Straight Outta Compton was great, entertaining, I loved it (the actors AND director are black), Beasts of No Nation was absolutely stunning, amazing, goosebump-inducing (the black child actor, Abraham Attah, carried the entire movie brilliantly and Idris Elba was superb--he won the SAG award), and Creed was great (again, black director and actor not nominated). I have yet to see Concussion...we shall see...
The Danish Girl
We just watched this a few weeks ago. We thought we might be bored going in (my husband didn't care for this director's last movie, The King's Speech, plus The Danish Girl didn't get very rave reviews, more like mediocre), but it was very engaging nonetheless. Eddie Redmayne elevated the film with his captivating performance. Alicia Vikander won the Oscar for her heart wrenching performance! By the way, I loved her in Ex Machina.
We went into the movie not knowing anything, never even watched the trailer, so at first we thought he's a cross dresser (but the getting turned on and having sex in women's clothes got us confused, seemed fetish-like... I think the movie would have been better off without that), then we were wondering if he was an intersex person (nosebleeds and menstrual cramps...it's weird, my nose occasionally gets dry during my cycle and I get minor nosebleeds on rare occasions), then finally we understood he--she--was a transgender woman...and possibly undiscovered intersex as well. The movie was sad, Gerda lost her husband, and all those terrible misdiagnoses, and in the end, it had us both choked up (spoiler: Lili's scarf flying free). Yes, my husband is very accepting and sensitive, otherwise I wouldn't have married him. No beer guzzling, football watching macho man for me, thank you very much.
Then, afterwards, I read the Wikipedia and biography.com bio on Lili Elbe and didn't understand why they didn't make a more truer rendition of her story, why did they make the movie based on the loosely based bestselling novel? Is real life not as exciting? The movie made it seem like she only lived a few years as a woman before deciding on surgery, when it was two decades! (Biography.com) I was glad to read that! There were two operations in the movie, and four in real life, the fourth being a way-ahead-of-its-time uterine transplant. When I read that, I was blown away at how daring they were being in 1931, yet upset that they were being so daring, because she could have lived as a post op woman for a long time if not for that last surgery, which of course her body rejected without any anti-rejection meds. Just last week, a woman from the US, who I believe was born without a uterus--which a doctor on TV said is not that uncommon, 1 in 4,500--was given the uterus transplant, and it was rejected a few days later, even with today's advances in medicine. I think there's only been one successful transplant just a few years ago. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uterus_transplantation
Continuing. In the movie, Lili was Einar's cousin, when in real life they told people she was his sister. Plus the movie made it look like Gerda triggered Einar's repressed feelings suddenly, or even created these feelings out of the blue, when maybe it was something gradual he was already feeling. I guess it makes for a more interesting book/movie, that she feels all this guilt for having "made him this way," being it was her ideas in the beginning. Perhaps some spouses feel that way even till today..."did I make you this way?" But...if you think about it...like I mentioned above, Lili was a woman for two decades, so I'm sure life with Gerda was uneventful, even peaceful and happy, and according to a Wikipedia source, Gerda maaay have been a lesbian (I'm thinking, what's wrong with her being bi?!), so they omitted that from the movie to create that gut wrenching, tearing-at-your-heartstrings love story between a wife and husband. They also didn't focus on Gerda's successful career as a book and fashion magazine illustrator, probably to show more of a big leap in success when she starts to paint the mysterious Lili.
All in all, I'm glad to have seen the movie, because I learned about a brave pioneer (actually a lot more from Wikipedia and biography.com!) and it had gorgeous cinematography, beautiful production design, and if not for Leo, Eddie would have been the rare actor to have won back to back lead Oscars.
Please tell me what YOU thought of these movies. I would love to hear your thoughts.