More noise than signal

Transamerica

This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site, theOneliner.com

Ah, here we go again. Another film jumping on the pre-op transsexual road movie bandwagon. How many of these will we have to sit through before the well dries?

Still, I suppose if they’re all this good it’s churlish to complain. The focus of this particular pre-op transsexual road movie is Bree ‘Stanley’ Osbourne (Felicity Huffman), mere days away from having a real woman made out of her. A phone call from out of the blue informs her that she is a father to a teenage boy, currently in an East Coast police cell. After a short period of attempting to weasel out of any responsibility she’s told by her psychiatrist to get the kid out of chokey and face up to the situation like a man slash woman.

Deciding to get to know Toby (Kevin Zegers) a little better before dropping the parentage bombshell on the poor boy, Bree poses as a church outreach worker to see what the kid’s up to. Concerns are voiced on finding out he’s been paying the rent by being a rent boy, and after a short period of faffing around trying to run away from this unexpected burden Bree decides to drag him back home across America to L.A. where Toby hopes to start a career in movies. Adult movies.

And so on and so forth, with the usual journey of discovery and character development with side trips to Bree’s horrendous family, for whom we assume the family surname was not chosen coincidentally. While this glosses over vast swathes of storytelling, there’s not a heck of a lot more you can say about road trip films. As with Sideways and About Schmidt, there’s no exhilarating chase sequences or warlords to depose, all of the interesting battles going on somewhere in the eyes of the characters. By which we mean mental conflicts. Not that we’re postulating pitched battles inside ocular cavities. Well, at least I think we aren’t. Seems a small volume to have a car chase in. I think I’m getting sidetracked.

The focus of the piece, Bree, our man-going-to-be-a-woman is played as previously mentioned, by Felicity Huffman. The especially astute amongst you will note that Huffman is, by all accounts, female. There is perhaps a point to be made about gender here which may be suitable for film students to do a short thesis on, but for workaday journeymen such as ourselves I think it’s sufficient to point out that she does a very good job indeed at the whole ‘acting’ thing, not just the exceptionally unsettling deep voice and general terrifying half man / half woman appearance thing that at times threatens to overshadow the point of the piece and veer to heavily into drag queen territory, but never quite realises that horrible fate. Nonetheless, this is still scarier than any horror film released over the last decade at a few points. Zegers proves equally amiable as the troubled teen who manages to be realistically problematic, as compared to the usual overegged puddings thrown at us during the likes of Thirteen.

Well, it’s just about now that I’m supposed to say something exceedingly profound that makes you beat a path to the nearest Transamerica showing cinema, barging the elderly brusquely aside as you make all possible haste. Sadly inspiration for such profundity has deserted me, ad crueller people amongst the audience may question if it has ever actually struck at any point. How hurtful. Still, this film should not be held responsible for my inadequacies, especially in the current multiplex landscape which while not necessarily the worst we’ve ever seen, is perhaps the least interesting. Honestly, the lack of updates recently is only partially due to laziness and day job commitments, much of it is related to a complete absence of films I care to see. I don’t recall that happening since day one of theOneliner era. Such wittering has little to do with the matter at hand, however.

Essentially, Transamerica shows human characters in a human drama, and the grandstanding gender issues aren’t so much an educational point about how some people choose to live their life as it is just another complication to a life that’s already doing quite well on the complications front. This isn’t a plea for social acceptance and understanding, it’s just another side to the whole ‘human condition’ thing that happens to make a damn good movie. If you want much more than that from a film there’s something seriously wrong with you.

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