On the verge of qualifying for surgery to complete the transformation from Stanley to Sabrina - or Bree (Felicity Huffman) - is given one last hurdle by his/her therapist: he/she must post bail for the teen age Toby (Kevin Zegers), caught stealing a frog, who claims to be her son from a once-only long-ago heterosexual encounter when she was a he. Bree arrives in a frock, hiding his true identity and pretends to be a Christian missionary and it is on these terms that they drive from New York to Los Angeles, Bree to have her final operation and Toby to try his luck as an actor in porn movies. The journey is interrupted by chance meetings, as well as one catastrophic sidetrip to Stanley/Bree's parents, who never quite accepted their son in the first place.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
You certainly can't criticise Transamerica for being the same old same old. Infused with seams of strangeness only found in fact, the screenplay is at once funny and sobering. In fact, it's the strength of the underlying tragic elements that make the surface humour work so effectively. We laugh with the pain of it all. Of course, the story of a man desperate to become a woman is the stuff of ribald jokes on the one hand and dramatic tsunamis on the other. Duncan Tucker makes his film seem as though there is a third way: a comedy drama that tries to stay true to the drama of the circumstances without losing sight of its comedic possibilities.
Felicity Huffman garnered immediate accolades for her performance as the man who would be woman, and she certainly creates a memorable character. Sometimes the mirage is paper thin, and it is hard to totally believe this complex and conflicted character, who seems impossibly prim and proper, unworldly and somehow removed from real life. On the other hand, a man wanting to be a woman quite probably goes to some sort of extreme in assuming a female character, pushing the feminine button harder and longer than a natural born woman might need to. So all round, there is considerable veracity in the characterisation, and what she does do superbly well is communicate the emotional state of the character. And there is plenty of that.
As for instance in the sequence when Bree and Toby stop by the old folks; to them he's still Stanley, dressed queer, but to Bree, she's already a woman.
Kevin Zegers comes up with the perfectly pitched teenage mixed up kid, Toby, whose life has pushed him out of his natural shape. The two of them interact with sizzling intensity on their road trip across America, both figuratively and geographically, and despite a few slumps in energy, the film maintains its difficult, challenging balancing act pretty well. We are all weird at least to some extent, from an outsider's point of view, craving acceptance and respect, if love is too big an ask.
Review by Louise Keller:
It's a film everyone is talking about, and no wonder. Beyond its transsexual theme, Transamerica is a film that gets underneath the skin. Sensitively written and directed by Duncan Tucker, it's a moving, funny and involving story that takes us into the life of a transsexual who discovers that happiness is more than a nip and a tuck. It's the role of a lifetime for Not So Desperate Housewife Felicity Huffman, whose performance as Bree is simply astonishing. Standing awkwardly and self-consciously, Huffman's Bree makes our hearts lurch every step of the way, as she finds her footing and a sense of her own worth.
We can almost touch Bree's desperation from the very beginning as she meets the psychiatrist who holds the pen of consent to sign the genital operation form. Taking hormones, lowering her voice, and having the all-important surgery are things she knows she take in her stride. But meeting her son is another matter. As is the formidable task of knocking on the door of the past as she lands on her parents' doorstep.
Transamerica is a road movie comprising enough moments that stick to fill a continent. From the moment she pays a single dollar for his bail, Bree starts to feel more and more responsible for seventeen-year old Toby, whose life has totally gone off the rails. They are the ultimate odd-couple as they hit the road together. Reminiscent of a young Leonardo Di Caprio, Canadian television actor Kevin Zegers makes his mark as Toby, who is also struggling with his identity.
Life on the road is filled with surprises, like meeting Graham Greene's laid-back Indian Calvin Manygoats, who wears a cowboy hat and believes 'Every woman is entitled to a little mystery.' All roads lead to home, and the pathos-filled scenes when Bree takes Toby to her family home, where her parents and sister have long given up on her, are the film's highlight.
Engrossing from start to finish, Transamerica connects on many levels, appealing to a far wider audience than its themes might suggest.
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CAST: Felicity Huffman, Kevin Zegers, Fionulla Flanagan, Graham Greene, Burt Young, Elizabeth Pena
PRODUCER: Rene Bastian, Sebastian Dungan, Linda Moran
DIRECTOR: Duncan Tucker
SCRIPT: Duncan Tucker
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Stephen Kazmierski (and Tom Camarda)
EDITOR: Pam Wise
MUSIC: David Mansfield
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Mark White
RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 23, 2006
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.