I finally got the chance to view ‘Transamerica’ in the worst possible circumstance. I had it on my to do list for ages, but it wasn’t until I was lying on a table having my face electrified for 9 hours until I really had the chunk of time I needed to give it my full attention. I have to admit, it was a real nice distraction to focus on while James worked his magic needle to fry my follicles.
As usual, I’m not going to bother giving you the whole synopsis on the thing because you can look it up and read it yourself without me laboriously typing in a much less accurate recounting. Plus I don’t want a lot a whining that I gave away spoilers. Wait, I usually end up doing that anyway, so… Spoiler Alert! A good possibility exists that I am going to ruin this for you if you haven’t seen it yet. Just to be safe, I guarantee it. Read on at your peril or if you take particular delight in being let down by an online buttinsky just so you can complain later.
The best thing about this film, other than featuring a trans protagonist, was the acting by Felicity Huffman. Short of actually putting a transgender woman in the role, I think they made the best choice. Felicity was exceptionally believable as Bree, and had I not known ahead of time that she was born female, I probably would have been super excited that they managed to find a trans actress I hadn’t heard of yet. She sold the role, even stacked up against a cameo by the fabulous Calpurnia Addams, who ironically played a much less believable trans. The scene in which they are together is an odd mix of Bree, representing pretty much every trans woman I know, and Calpurnia’s friends, who represented a caricature of everything people think we are. “come in! Debra is showing everyone her new vagina!” Ugh… seriously.
The movie overall is a pretty standard story; road trip quest to complete before super important deadline. In this case she has to bail her kid out of jail before her shrink will sign the surgery letter, and of course she’s already booked the operation in advance of all this and it can’t be moved. Naturally she doesn’t want to abandon her son, but also doesn’t really want to reveal herself either. I can’t identify with that last bit to be honest, at all. It’s nearly impossible that I have an unknown child out there, but if one appeared in my life, I would have to be forced to let go. In moving her son back to Cali, the typical daddy turned maddy scenes play out. A little bit of drug dealing, a car stolen by a hippy hitchhiker they immediately trust, some male hustling for quick cash, and finally a sexual proposition from son to biological father. The usual stuff that would make any sane parent want to kill themselves.
In her bid to ditch her kid, which involves an attempted drop of to gramma and grampa, along with a poorly conceived plan to reunite junior with his sexual predator step-father, Bree finally comes to the post-operative realization that the happiness of family supersedes even that of genital corrective surgery. It was a very moving scene actually, exacerbated by the very lonely scene of her in the hospital sobbing, with only her therapist there to give comfort.
I actually found the most interesting scene to be when Bree finally comes to the realization that this is in fact her kid. She visits his shanty of an apartment and he shows her an old pic of Bree in her male days alongside an old flame. The weight of responsibility comes over her and she slumps down on the bed. What I liked about it was that for all her hyper-awareness regarding her femininity, in this moment of being overwhelmed she sits down with a very male sounding grunt, in the classic ‘defeated dude’ open legged slouch. To me that captured in one moment the essence of the trans existence; the sheer difficulty of completely overcoming so many years of behavioral training.
While a tear jerker some of the time, and horribly uncomfortable at other times, there was also a degree of lightness to this and a few laughs as well. While atypical of anyone in particular, so wholly typical to the overall trans life and the inescapable awkwardness that remain ubiquitous through transition. And because some of you saw fit to complain (ahem!) of my lack of star rating for my movie reviews, I concede and give this 4 out of 5 Golden Michelleliannas, whatever those are supposed to be anyway.