By Kasey Schiedeck | Images property of The Weinstein Co
From the moment the mother/teenage son cross country road trip started, my heart sank as I foreshadowed a terribly melodramatic and uneventful narrative. What surprised me most about Transamerica is that it focuses at close proximity on thematically sound ideals beyond sexuality and gender reassignment and whether or not either one is acceptable. The film is not for everyone but there certainly is a great deal of subtle nuance that writer/director Duncan Tucker reveals with suave tact that allows for empathy.
Transamerica Movie Review
Tucker wisely cast Felicity Huffman as Bree (formerly known as Stanley) who has lived her entire life in the wrong body. Her greatest desire is to undergo gender reassignment surgery so that at least her genitals and mental awareness match. She works in a Los Angeles Mexican restaurant by day and performs as a telemarketer at night saving money for the surgery. All appears well when her surgery is scheduled in a week. Then she learns of her seventeen-year-old son and must ameliorate the situation at the request of her therapist before the surgery can be administered. Bree travels to New York, bails out the obnoxious hustler Toby (an alluring Kevin Zegers), and offers to drive him back to Los Angeles (where he wants to improve his current situation by becoming, of all things, a porn star). All the while Bree parades as a church missionary, a prim and proper woman afraid of bugs and men. Toby is unaware of his paternal relationship to the odd woman who offers him the ride, but he needs to make to California and agrees to go along for the ride. Stops along the way include a visit to Toby’s foster family in the Mid West and another stop at Bree’s disapproving parents in Arizona (played with incredible spunk and authenticity by Fionnula Flanagan and Burt Young), and a deliriously memorable conversation with Calvin Two Goats, a Native American rancher in Texas who discovers Bree for her warmth and wisdom and nothing less than a gentle, ordinary woman.
By this point, it should be clear whether the film sounds enticing or revolting. I may also add that Transamerica has been recently labeled as just another addition to the feared new “gay Hollywood” franchise. While there are elements of sexuality throughout, Tucker walks a fine line and focuses on Bree’s very normal, even boring lifestyle that makes her character incredibly lucid. She was cast, reportedly, before her role on Desperate Housewives came along. Husband William H. Macy is also an executive producer of the film which I assume was no coincidence. Whatever the circumstances, her performance is beautiful. A heartbreaking scene near the end of the film as she is comforted by her therapist is one of the most tragic and emotionally wrought scenes I have seen all year.