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Film Review


(December 29, 2005) Hi, Sometimes little films, with virtually no publicity, can steal in and steal your heart. Transamerica is one of those films. It's a first film for Duncan Tucker, who both wrote and directed. He tells the story of Stanley, now called Bree (short for Sabrina), who is a woman born into a man's body, and desperate to become a woman physically. She has been dressing as a woman for some time. After intensive therapy, hormonal treatments, and voice coaching lessons, she is a week away from her final operation that will make her a fully functioning woman. She gets a phone call from a teen age boy who has been arrested in New York for street hustling, asking for her by her earlier male name. The boy, Toby, claims that the man is his father. Stunned, she talks about this with her therapist, who insists that Bree must resolve this before she undergoes her final surgery. Bree goes to NY, bails out Toby, and begins a cross country drive, initially hoping to drop him off at his step father's house. Things go badly, and they continue the road trip to Los Angeles, because Bree is determined not to miss the scheduled surgery date. Otherwise she has to wait at least a year to get into the surgery schedule, with its long waiting list. Bree does not tell Toby that she is indeed his father, but lies and says that she is a missionary from the "Church of the Potential Father." As you would expect, much happens on this trip and each character more fully reveal themselves, in every way. Again, I don't want to say more.

All the acting is good, but Felicity Huffman just runs away with the film. As Bree, she is playing a man playing a woman, and does so in a highly believable (at least to me) manner. Her clothes are ultra feminine, she uses too much makeup, has some difficulty walking and sitting like a woman, and talks in a very restrained educated manner. But Tucker isn't making fun of her, and Huffman gives an extraordinarily sympathetic portrait of a very kind, decent, but unhappy person who is trying to fashion (bad pun) a new life. The road trip scenes are what you would expect, a cinemagraphic cross section of rural America. The music is appropriate and lovely as well. Transamerica isn't a profound or great film, but I really loved this little gem, and thought it was very accomplished, particularly for a first time director. Just opened at the Bridge Theater. Have a good good New Year, and here's hoping for another year of great films in theaters.

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