- Duncan Tucker
- Reviewed by
- José Ruiloba a.k.a. Morris
- Review date
- Monday, January 23, 2006
Bree (Felicity Huffman) was born a boy, but as she explains, she had a genetic disorder and should’ve been a girl instead. Now in her 40’s, she is just one week away from getting the last operation needed to become a woman. But that’s when a phone call disrupts all of her plans. As it happens, Bree had a son, Toby (Kevin Zegers), whose mother died years ago and who is in trouble now regarding his use of drugs. Bree decides to help his male hustler son by masquerading as a church volunteer and taking him with her to L.A., where she’s got to be for the operation.
Even if the premise sounds like a full-blown drama, writer/director Duncan Tucker (in his feature debut) chooses to tell his story in lightweight manner. The final result is a movie that certainly has a lot of drama, but that plays more as a comedy. Bree is a pretty conflicted human being who goes through life trying to fit, scared of her surroundings, barely trusting anyone and carrying quite a lot of baggage. She’s a tragic character, but she’s got a big heart. The comedy comes from situations that are external to her. She’s not necessarily the funny one, but the circumstances around her and the characters that come in her way provide the easy-going vibe that resembles what life should be all about. Watching Bree trying to cope with this is quite funny, but just as poignant.
Road movies usually suffer from an episodic disease, and Transamerica does not escape that. We’re never bored though, which is a plus. Yet I don’t know why but the flick never really felt like a Motion Picture to me. It has a certain TV-movie quality, or maybe a sitcom-y one. It doesn’t come together as well as it should. Fortunately there’s a fascinating central character and that’s what keeps it afloat.
Being the first movie I see about a transsexual I can’t really compare it with anything. But I felt like it delivers a very respectful and interesting portrayal. We tend to negatively judge these people and stay away from them, but we barely try to understand them. Just as Kevin Bacon did with The Woodsman concerning pedophiles (albeit in a more serious way), here we get a glimpse at the life of a human being who has suffered all her life for something that is not her fault. The remedy might feel a bit extreme to some, but for her it makes perfect sense. And it’s not simple, either physically or psychologically. Here’s a movie about a transsexual who also happens to be a good human being, but instead of just being about her, the movie treats her like any other character and gives her a plot in which she has to connect with the son she never knew she had. That’s what the movie is really about, and it just works.
Felicity Huffman is, in a nutshell, breath-taking. I could talk about the body language or the voice or the impressive physical transformation, but without a soul fully immersed in the role that would amount to nothing. You can sense the stiffness in the way Bree behaves, a sadness in her eyes that gives out her history. Felicity makes all this look easy, and even though I always knew it was an actress playing the role, I did believe her in the role of a man trying to become a woman. It is the work of a great actress. Kevin Zegers, as her son, is very good as well. And I’d like to give special notices to Fionnula Flanagan, who is hysterical and steals every scene she’s in.
The movie boasts interesting choices in its production design and costumes, which work well for the tone of the movie. And the selection of songs is really good.
“Hormones are hormones. Yours and mine just happen to come in purple little pills.”
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