Sunday, February 12, 2006


Felicity Huffman TRANSAMERICA MOVIE Directed by Duncan Tucker
Reviewed by Byron Merritt

With all the hype surrounding BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN this year (2005), it was surprising that TRANSAMERICA clearly got overlooked in many film award categories. Although Felicity Huffman received a Best Actress win from the Golden Globes (and an Oscar nomination), this movie really deserves MUCH more praise. Not only was the basic film better than BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (my opinion), it also had stronger supporting roles.

I need to pontificate about the unfair attitudes toward independent films, too, and how Hollyweird views them when Oscar time rolls around. If you doubt this, all you need to do is look at THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE’S reviews of Brokeback (approval rating) versus TRANSAMERICA (a negative ranking). I think this type of inconsistent approval/disapproval of similar films is also because the "big" movies get more press because they have the money to shove around for promotional purposes, while the little indies have to struggle on minuscule budgets.

If you’re man (or woman) enough to sit and open your mind to people’s problems, you’re sure to enjoy TRANSAMERICA. Dealing with the life of one man’s desire to become a woman, this film shows us the internal and external battles one might face. And when Bree (aka Stanley) decides to undergo a final surgical alteration to make her "all woman" she has to get approval by a medical doctor as well as a psychologist. The movie begins with Bree getting that approval, only to have it yanked away by the discovery of a child of which he/she is the father. Toby (an amazing Kevin Zegers), calls his father — Bree — one day with a request to bail him out of jail. Bree has to travel from L.A. to New York to accomplish this (at the behest of his/her psychologist). Bree then has to bring her 17-year-old boy across the U.S., but doesn’t tell him he/she is his father. The tension in the film is continually ratcheted up as Bree struggles to make sense of his/her own life while trying to keep his/her son from self-imploding. Bree also has to deal with his/her family during their travels across country, and it’s both funny and sad to watch the dysfunctional antics of children and adults alike.

As I stated earlier, too, the supporting cast is excellent. Not only was Felicity Huffman (DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES TV series) completely believable as a female actor portraying a man who wants to become a woman, but Kevin Zegers pulls in an awesome performance as her confused son. Fionnula Flanagan (WAKING NED DEVINE, 1998) performs the part of an overbearing mother as if born to the part. Burt Young (ROCKY series) sheds his hard-nosed "Paulie" persona in the Rocky films and becomes the reluctant supporter of his son’s choice to change into a woman. Even Graham Greene (DANCES WITH WOLVES, 1990) gives us a tough but ultimately ignorant man who helps drive Bree and his/her son across several states.

TRANSAMERICA goes beyond VICTOR/VICTORIA and BOYS DON’T CRY, and gives us the true meaning of what it is to be a person. It’s not about the sex. It’s all about the other things, family, self-worth, and all those insignificant items that add up quickly to form one giant melting pot we all find ourselves in.

What a shame more accolades weren’t given to this terrific character film.

Golden Globe Award Winner: Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture


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