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Genre: Drama/Comedy
Rated: R
Directed by
Released by: The Weinstein Company

In Short: Felicity Huffman gives a tour-de-force performance as a preoperative transgender man whose planned sex-change operation hits a huge snag that triggers a memorable road trip.

When He is a She
A Gender-bending Road Trip
By Jenny Peters

There have been plenty of movies made about road trips; in fact, many might think that the road trip genre has grown predictable and tired. But then a film like "Transamerica" comes along, proving that any genre can be as fresh and fascinating as the first time we encountered it. Felicity Huffman stars in this gender-bending comedic drama as Stanley "Bree" Osbourne, an Angeleno man who is in the closing stages of changing his sex to female. In fact, as the movie begins, he's almost transformed into a woman, via hormone treatments and psychotherapy. He certainly looks female, in an unattractive sort of way. There's only the final (gulp!) operation, scheduled for about a week away, before he becomes a she.

Just as Bree is making final preparations, everything changes. He discovers that not only does he have a teenage son, Toby, in New York, but the boy’s mother has died and Toby is in jail. Thus begins a turned-on-its-head road trip, as Bree heads for New York to rescue the teen, deftly played by the darkly handsome Kevin Zegers. Toby is unaware that Bree is his biological father, but together they end up an unlikely pair trekking across America, forming an odd, compelling relationship as the miles roll by.

Both lead actors, as well as all the assorted characters they meet along the way, are exemplary, with especially brilliant performances coming from Graham Greene as a rancher who falls for Bree, and Fionnula Flanagan as Bree's mother, who refuses to accept the fact that her son is about to become her daughter.

However, it is Felicity Huffman's multilayered turn as a man desperate to become a woman that is at the center of the movie, giving resonance and truth to a story that could easily have devolved into a campy stunt. Instead, "Transamerica" is a triumph, both for her and for first time writer-director Duncan Tucker. It's funny, poignant, truthful and ultimately a terrific movie about family, love and acceptance that is very likely to bring Huffman lots of golden statues come awards time. She's already been nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, as has Tucker for his screenplay and the film; more recognition is sure to follow.

(Published: 11/30/05)

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