Transamerica (15)

Written and Directed by Duncan Tucker
Screening at FACT from 24th March - 6th April 2006

Reviewed by Adam Ford

So this is a film about a pre-op male-to-female transsexual. She gets a call from a young man who claims to be her son. She meets up with him, and discovers that he is working as a male prostitute. He wants to be a blond star of gay porn, so she agrees to drive him to Los Angeles. Sounds pretty edgy eh? Well no actually. Strange though it may seem, Transamerica is more of a cuddly ‘family values’ tale which practically boasts about its New Testament Christianity.

Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman portrays Sabrina ‘Bree’ Osbourne as a prim and proper middle aged lady, who buries the remnants of her genetic masculinity beneath layers of quite ghoulish makeup. She meets son Toby (Kevin Zegers) while paying his $1 bail, so it seems easier to pretend that she is a missionary from the ‘Church of the Potential Father’ than to confess her true identity. Of course, Toby also has his secrets, and the pair gradually get to know each other whilst traveling across the country.

Huffman won an Oscar nomination for her performance, and though I’ve never been a pre-op male-to-female transsexual, it seemed persuasive enough. The script is sharp and witty, offering a series of quirky encounters with characters alongside the father and son bonding. Debut director Duncan Tucker’s focus is very much on gentle comedy, which is mostly at the expense of those who can’t their head round our heroine’s need to change. However, it also deprives us of any attempt to examine the society that produces such bigotry. The viewer is left with decent entertainment which lack the depth of thought and emotional impact that made Brokeback Mountain such a surprise hit. Transamerica raises a few smiles, but it will probably do little to raise awareness of transgender issues.

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