The transgender community over the years has been far from treated properly. Though as of late, they've been represented much better throughout the media. Several TV shows and films feature trans women as actual people rather than a cheap plot twist or an even cruder punchline. It helps even more to have trans actresses to play those roles. (See Orange is the New Black, Sense8 and Tangerine as recent examples.)
However, there have also been cis actors playing trans women more frequently. (See Dallas Buyers Club and Transparent as recent examples.) There's a level of political correctness in such a depiction. Is it because Hollywood is still too afraid to advance with the times? Regardless, the printed word has been more sensible with matters like this.
David Ebershoff's novel The Danish Girl is a fictionalized account of Lili Elbe (when she was still known as Einar Wegener) and her marriage to Gerda Gottlieb (Greta Waud in the book). Ebershoff depicts this brief union not as a conflicted one because of Lili's so-called "perversion" but as one of deep understanding. (Whether it was entirely like that in real life is hard to say.)
Tom Hooper's adaptation makes Ebershoff's novel more melodramatic than it needs to be. (If anything, it cheapens the story.) Yes, Alexandre Desplat's score and Danny Cohen's cinematography make a gorgeous combination but they alone can't salvage Lucinda Coxon's thin script and Hooper's occasionally sporadic direction. (Same can be said in regards with Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander's performances.)
It's easy to see which of the two is better. Ebershoff's novel is a quiet depiction of marriage and devotion. Hooper's film meanwhile reduces it to a looming scandal, a shocking story from the previous century. Both also decidedly proved which is more with the times.
What's worth checking out?: The book.