Saturday, June 03, 2006

Transamerica: Grade B



Felicity Huffman, Kevin Zegers, Fionnula Flanagan, Graham Greene

A man living as a woman (Huffman) is about to have a transgender operation that will make him a physical woman, when she discovers she has a long lost son (Zegers). She bails him out of jail, representing herself as a do-gooder from a Christian church. They drive from New York to LA, so most of it is a road movie where they get to know each other. The story is driven by surprises – she discovers her son, he discovers she is a guy, then ultimately that she is his father. The character completely absorbs Huffman. Makes me wonder how it would have worked if a male had been cast in that role. The script is excellent, ranging over subtle and sensitive to obvious guffaw. Is it a comedy? It is LOL funny in moments, but more a human drama told in a comedic vein. Not a joke-a-minute, but a serious exploration of gender and relationship. What does it really mean to be male or female? It’s a puzzling question. Flanagan, Huffman’s mother, is a scene-stealer. Greene has a small role, in which he actually sings. Huffman did a fantastic job, no question, but she played her character too loopy to be fully believable; absent-minded, disconnected, reminiscent of Peter Sellers bumbling through.

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