Wednesday, March 28, 2007

So I finally saw Transamerica...

So, this movie's basically the definition of uneven. I wasn't expecting to like it very much, but I think I liked more than I thought I would (can you sense that I'm confused and ambivalent?). There was definitely a lot wrong with it, but there was a lot right with it, too. I think it succeeded more as a comedy than as a drama (weird that it ended up drama at the golden globes... I think that was Reese Witherspoon's fault). Did it succeed as a film? Umm... sort of. It's definitely problematic, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy it. Actually, the word I think describes it best is... "cute."

Re: Felicity Huffman... well, I'm glad she didn't win the oscar - that was never gonna happen anyway, not over America's Sweetheart in a $100 million grossing biopic - but honestly, I don't think she was half bad. She was maybe 33% bad, and 66% very good. Let me explain:

As a comedic performance, it was very good. As a dramatic performance, it was very good. As a transgender performance... well... it was sketchy. A touch problematic. I don't see why Bree was so uncomfortable in heels, etc. if she was supposed to be more comfortable as a woman than as a man. There was a lot of "ticky" and "fussy" going on, and I didn't think that served the character well. I get that she is conservative and not comfortable with performative behavior, so I see what Huffman and the director were going for, but I think, in execution, not all of it worked. And why did Bree have to be so ugly? Why was her hair and makeup SO bad? Hadn't she been living as a woman for a while by the start of the film? I just didn't think it made sense to have Bree be so incredibly uncomfortable with everything about womanhood, when the whole point of becoming a woman is that you feel MORE comfortable that way.

I was very impressed with a lot of what she did, though, and I see why she was cast here over other actresses, including MtF trans actresses. Basically, it's cause she's good, and is able to pull off this kind of awkward comedy/drama. Note to whom it may concern: it's on record that Huffman was cast in Transamerica BEFORE she began filming "Desperate Housewives". She was not famous at the time, so her starpower and the "famous actress deglamming" hook had nothing to do with it; she was cast on talent and suitability for the role. Whether it was truly best to cast a woman in the role is a divisive issue, but that's not the fault of Huffman, who claims her first reaction upon receiving the role was "I think it should be played by a man." The director says he didn't want to cast a man because he wanted to show that trans women DO in fact look like women, and not like men in dresses... but shouldn't trans women be allowed to show that for themselves, instead of having Felicity Huffman uglied up instead? But I am willing to buy the explanation that Huffman was simply the best actor (male or female) for the role, and much of her work here is excellent.

Also, Kevin Zegers is HOT. And he gave a good performance, to boot. I look forward to seeing more of him in the future (and no, I don't mean it that way... I mean, there's really no more to see... but don't get me wrong... I'd tap that in a second).

So yes, at heart, this is really just a cute little father/son bonding movie that happens to take on some tough issues. Nothing wrong with that. At times, it's contrived, overly broad, or condescending to its audience and characters, but at other times, it's quite funny and/or affecting. I was onboard for most of the film, annoying parts be damned. The supporting performances were all over the map (GOOD: Elizabeth Pena as Bree's therapist, ANNOYING: Fionnula Flanagan as Bree's mother), but the two leads were pretty solid. The script could really have used some work, but I admire the film's concept, and think it's basically a worthwhile piece. Again... the operative word is: "cute."

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