Transamerica - watch it for Felicity Huffman
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Transamerica - watch it for Felicity Huffman

Other than Felicity Huffman's bravura performance, for which she has won an Oscar nomination, Transamerica, unfortunately, just doesn't make the grade.

india Updated: Mar 03, 2006 20:56 IST

Film: Transamerica
Cast: Felicity Huffman, Kevin Zegers, Fionnula Flanagan, Elizabeth Pena, Graham Greene
Production: Linda Moran, Rene Bastian, Sebastian Dungan
Written and Directed by: Duncan Tucker
Rating: ***

For all those Desperate Housewives fans out there, this is just the movie for you. The overwrought mother from the series is here the anxious preoperative transsexual parent of a troubled son he/she didn't know existed. Other than Felicity Huffman's bravura performance, for which she has won an Oscar nomination, Transamerica, unfortunately, just doesn't make the grade.

The film is a brave one, no doubt. The story catches the cerebral Bree, who is on hormonal pills and on her way to becoming a full-fledged woman, just before her final all important surgery. A call from a teenaged runaway who is the son from the days when she was Stanley stops her in her tracks and she reluctantly goes to New York to free him.

Posing as a Christian missionary, she meets up with the 17-year-old Toby, whose mother is dead, he is into drugs and prostitutes his body to make money.

Essentially a road film, Transamerica tracks the relationship between the GG (genetic girl) and the troubled teenager as they drive across the country from New York to California.

Toby's realisation that Bree is not really a woman, his acceptance of her identity and the shock when he realises that she is actually his father are well done.

It's a promising plot that fails, however, to deliver.

The problem is that too many things are turned on their head, not just the protagonist who's in the process of finally finding her identity. Bree's family, for instance, are almost caricatures - the tanned, over made-up mother who can't come to terms with her son's sexuality, the druggie sister and the silent father.

Then, there's Toby himself, who at one point in the film has sex with a man he has just met to get money when Bree loses her purse. But the point when he strips and offers to make love to Bree and says he will marry her -- that's when Bree tells him that she (he?) is his father -- is when you feel that the film has keeled over in its effort to be different. The impact is lost.

There are some great lines though. Sample this: "Plastic surgery can cure a mental disorder," Bree says in one of her opening scenes, perfectly summing up her own mental and physical confusion. Or when she says later on, "My body may be a work in progress but there is nothing wrong with my soul."

The dignity of those lines is perfectly embodied by Huffman, who brought so much grace to her role as Lynette in Desperate Housewives.

Her unsure steps, the slightly overdone, clumsily applied makeup so effectively making the point that it is something she is not really used to, the hair and the clothes - they are just right. And so is the carefully cultivated husky, low timbre voice.

Some great touches too. Like Toby sniffing drugs in one scene and ordering a chocolate milkshake in the very next - is there anything more to be said about the young teenager struggling to find his way?

The elements are all there but it's just so over the top. Huffman holds the film together and it's worth a watch just for her. But you could wait to catch it on DVD. No need to rush.

First Published: Mar 03, 2006 20:56 IST