Thursday, June 07, 2007


Duncan Tucker | 2006 | 106 min | USA

When I started watching Transamerica, some PC molecule in the back of my brain was triggered into wondering ‘how does the trans community feel about this man-becoming-a-woman being played by a woman-pretending-to-be-a-man-becoming-a-woman? How would Boys Don’t Cry have gone over if Brandon Teena was played by Ethan Hawke’s lithe and handsome younger brother instead of Hillary Swank? Is this going to look as embarrassing in a few years as actors pretending to be retarded look now?’

When I put aside my concerns about the delicate nature of representation, I really enjoyed this film. Felicity Huffman does a fine job of playing the calculatedly and self-consciously feminine Bree, and the film unfolds at a pace that allows her to blossom into a multi-dimensional character, instead of treating her like an easy joke target with a handbag full of nervous ticks.

The film follows Bree as she embarks on a cross country road-trip with her son, who (to complicate matters) believes her to be a Christian missionary out to save him. Thankfully, the film doesn’t shy away from some truly creepy ‘father / son’ moments, and the awkwardness between Bree, her new son and her estranged and intolerant family is pretty bang-on, even though the conservative southern parents and rebellious younger sister are clearly hamming it up for comic relief. Plus, her mother's rodeo-mama-slash-aging-pageant-queen sequined outfits are killer.

Maybe films like Broken Flowers and Transamerica are signalling the start of a new era of Hollywood film? Perhaps they herald the birth of the ‘bitter-sweet comedic journey of self discovery through strained parent/child relations in a society grappling with its own stunted emotional growth in an alienating modern world’ genre? I guess that wouldn’t be so bad.

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