Sunday, March 05, 2006


Felicity Huffman is up and running for the Best Actress Oscar this year, and there's no profound reason to understand why. It's a challenging role, one in which she plays a transsexual. No, not a woman who wants to become a man, but the reverse. Meaning she has to have that constant subtle nuance that she's physically evolving into a woman through the assistance of drugs, while groping with the fact that others know she's a little queer.

It's surprisingly an enjoyable movie, one which meshes great music and visuals together to create a story focused on one man/woman's journey into fulfilling his/her desires. Bree Osbourne (Huffman) is at her final stages of transformation, having scheduled a final operation to remove her male organ. However, she received a call one day and realized that when she was still a he, he had unwittingly fathered a son, Toby (Kevin Zegers) and now that son is locked up in a New York jailhouse pending bail.

Posing as a church volunteer, Bree bails Toby out, but keeps the true nature of their relationship a secret. And since both of them need to reach Los Angeles, they embark on a reluctant road trip together. Yes, it's one of those road trip movies too, with its fair share of witty dialogue and comedic situations. However, this one had a little more heart involved, given the brilliant chemistry between father/mother and son. It becomes a journey of self discovery and self worth for the both of them, and at the same time, we look at the attitudes of general folks towards transsexuals and the prejudices they face.

In the film, it might be mentioned that it's a psychological disorder, but what you'd gather , if anything, is that they're human too, with similar hopes and aspirations, wanting to live their lives they want to, some having confidence, or the lack thereof therefore needing a physical change to be complete. And while this movie doesn't attempt to preach, it does make a point or two from its dialogue if you attempt to go at it from the angle of religion. In a scene with friends of the same nature, it was quite hard for Bree as you see her struggle to put down her friends in front of her son, as if to disapprove of their behaviour and what has become of them. It was as if she had put a mirror in front of herself and criticized oneself based on societal norms, in contrast to what we see each there where she psyches and assures herself each day in front of that same mirror.

Besides Bree, the other major character will be that of Toby, a teenage male streetwalker. Like Mysterious Skin, there's some exploration into gay and teen sex, as he sells his body to help get Bree and himself out of a fix. It might not settle well, but it's all there. I'm quite surprised to see Graham Greene in this movie too, though his role is quite minor, to show that transsexuals do have emotions and love too, and shouldn't be ostracized.

Perhaps the part where the plot really propelled forward was when the Bree and Toby meet up with the Osbournes. Part comedy, part serious, the family ties between the characters really took a life on its own, about how one's decision to change oneself will have an impact on parents, whether you'd like it or not. But it is precisely these issues that you'd think might crop up, actually do, and get addressed.

Its introduction to the premise might be a little Broken Flowers, and some aspects of it might have taken a leaf from Mysterious Skin, but Transamerica aptly surpasses those two in grappling with its mature themes. Recommended stuff.

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