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February 2005

TRANSAMERICA

by Melissa Walters

TRANSAMERICA

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Distributor: The Weinstein Company
Director: Duncan Tucker
Screenwriter: Duncan Tucker
Cinematography: Stephen Kazmierski
Composer: David Mansfield
Cast: Felicity Huffman, Kevin Zegers, Elizabeth Peña, Fionnula Flanagan, Burt Young, Carrie Preston, Graham Greene


   

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Transamerica is not a film starring a male comedian flamboyantly cross dressing as a woman eliciting laughs by exaggeration and/or trivialization of womanly ways. To the contrary, in “Transamerica” the complexity of a woman’s voice, dress and demeanor is studied, emulated and deliberately replicated by a transsexual woman seeking to live in obscurity. Duncan Taylor’s first feature film, produced by Sebastian Dungan and executive produced by William H. Macy, is a refreshingly serious film which explores the complexities of a condition that is often misunderstood and ignored by mainstream society.    

Bree Osbourne (Felicity Huffman), a gender dsyphoric male, is euphoric about her life becoming “normal"; she is a week away from shedding all vestiges of her manhood and undergoing sexual reassignment surgery. When Bree receives an unanticipated phone call from Toby Wilkins (Kevin Zegers), a son, which unbeknownst to her, had been sired during a “lesbian” college relationship, she travels to New York posed as a church missionary to rescue him from his life of prostitution and drug abuse. Together, they travel cross-country on a deadline; Bree must get back to Los Angeles in time to undergo her scheduled surgery. Bree attempts to conceal from Toby both her sex and their biological relationship throughout their journey but by the time they arrive at the home of Bree’s estranged family, the entire truth is revealed. Bree is humiliated; ridiculed and rejected; but the whole time maintains her dignity; even emphasizing to Toby that she too has a right to go to Church. Nevertheless, by the end of the film Bree has undergone a metamorphises that goes beyond the physical, finally embracing the remnants of her manhood that she had been anxious to escape.

Felicity Huffman's poignant performance in this film emphasizes her credibility as a dramatic actress whose gestures, voice and emotional displays are compelling and Oscar worthy. Together with Lynn Campbell, key hair and make up and Danny Glicker, costume design, Felicity Huffman transformation into a transsexual is decidedly convincing. Kevin Zeger is also stellar in his performance as a street hustler capable of transcending his own personal issues while lending support to his conflicted father. Together with excellent supporting performances by Elizabeth Pena as Margaret, Bree’s counselor, Fionnula Flanagan, as Bree’s overwhelmed mother and Carrie Preston as Bree’s recovering alcoholic sister Sydney, the cast brings this inspirational film about two disenfranchised individuals on the road to self actualization to life in a memorable way.