Transamerica

February 23rd, 2006 Film, Film Reviews, Xpress

Written and Directed by Duncan Tucker

Starring Felicity Huffman, Kevin Zegers, Graham Greene, Elizabeth Pena, Burt Young

Along the same lines as the ‘fish out of water’ comedy is the ‘companions who don’t want to be stuck together but end up loving each other’ film. They’re often one in the same, and it takes a very skilled writer and/or director to pull it off well.

Any time there’s travel involved or a journey to make (be it metaphorical or physical) and the protagonist meets someone they just don’t want anything to do with, you can bet a Hollywood studio fate will throw them together with only each other to count on.

If you’re watching a family comedy the unwanted companion will probably be an animal or a precocious, irrepressible kid and not even action movies are immune. The seminal prison break drama The Defiant Ones pitted both a black and a racist white prisoner against the law and the elements while literally chained together.

So after Some Like it Hot, through the years of Turner and Hooch, Three Fugitives and a million other unlikely partnership/road movies form the 80s, we come to Transamerica.

It’s a hard sell simply because there’s little about it that’s original. Where it wins you over is in the maturity of the subject matter and the performances.

Pre-operative transgendered Sabrina (Desperate Housewives’ Huffman) is a week away from completing her transformation when she’s informed she has a gay prostitute son in New York, mothered by a girlfriend from his former life.

Told by her psychologist she can’t possibly undergo the surgery until she’s found closure with the kid, Bree goes to meet him, hoping they’ll just let each other off the hook — quite difficult since she poses as a missionary come to save him rather than tell him the truth.

When his desire to move to LA to be a gay adult film star is too convenient for her to ignore, she reluctantly agrees to drive him across the country, trying to make peace with him although he has no idea who she is.

Huffman has the mannerisms, voice and demeanour of a transsexual woman down pat. At times bumblingly pathetic, it’s never at the expense of her quest to become a woman; writer/director Tucker just isn’t afraid to pick fun at human foibles in general. As such, Bree is a great character that will make you laugh and cry in equal measure. Zegers isn’t as accomplished or confident, but as Huffman’s muse he fits perfectly into the story.

It’s an old premise given a fresh new lease on life as it examines everything from sexuality to family. It’ll hold a mirror up to you, showing you how silly you are, how seriously you take everything, and how if we all lived and let live a little more, life would be better for a whole lot of people.


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