A review of “Transamerica” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: *** 1/2

Rating: R for intense adult situations

Run Time: 1 hour, 43 minutes

 

 

Felicity Huffman earns every gilded inch of her recently acquired Golden Globe for her portrayal of a transgendered male getting up close and personal with his feminine side.

Bree Osborne (Huffman) is a pre-operative transsexual impatiently waiting for the day when her new physical self can join her psyche in spiritual harmony. She presents herself as a woman with grace, dignity, and really bad fashion sense.

Fate deals Bree a nasty hand when a caller informs her than an old love affair resulted in a son (Kevin Segers as Toby) who is holed up in a New York City jail for turning tricks. Bree chooses to ignore the information but her therapist (Elizabeth Peňa) will not, insisting that Bree tie up her emotional loose ends before she will sign off on her sex re-assignment surgery.

Forced to face up to her past Bree flies East and, posing as a Christian missionary, convinces Toby to drive back with her to Kentucky to reunite with his estranged stepfather. She neglects to tell Toby that she is his father.

What starts as a transgender drama turns family affair, a road trip saturated with unexpectedly comic hurdles and pockets of psychological dynamite ready to blow.

The pair makes their way across country in a beat-up station wagon and chip away at each other’s facades; the besieged masquerader and the insouciant drifter conjoined by DNA and the fickle fingers of fate.

Huffman is positively stunning as a fragile man/woman with something to win and everything to lose. Her dogged attitude (gender-gifted not gender-challenged) infuses the story, even its sillier bits, with a poignant accessibility. The film circumvents treacly lessons in tolerance and rewards itself with the resonance of re-birth and second chances.