Southern Californian Bree Osbourne, formerly Stanley Chupak, has finally received the news for which she has been waiting: she has been approved for male-to-female sexual reassignment surgery. But before Margaret, her therapist, will allow her to go through with the surgery scheduled in a week's time, Bree has to deal with an unresolved problem from her past. Bree gets a telephone call from a seventeen year old man named Toby Wilkins, who is looking for Stanley, his biological father. Toby is in a New York jail, having been supporting himself by petty crime and hustling. Stanley/Bree knew nothing about Toby before the telephone call. Toby apparently is all alone in the world, with his mother having committed suicide and being estranged from his stepfather in Tennessee. Masquerading as a Christian social worker, Bree, not telling him either of her true identity or her transgender status, bails Toby out of jail and tells him she will take him to Los Angeles, where Toby has aspirations ...Written by
Lost in the Lonesome Pines
Written by Jim Lauderdale
Performed by Jim Lauderdale, Ralph Stanley, and the Cinch Mountain Boys
Published by Laudersongs / Mighty Nice Music (BMI)
Courtesy of Dualtone Music Group
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'Transamerica' is mainly a road movie about a pre-operative transsexual Bree (Huffman), her unknowing son (Zegers) and their complex yet developing relationship. There are some brilliant shots of the vast American landscapes throughout the film. This is not a predominant social rights movie. It focuses more on the relationship between the two protagonists. It's about about individual acceptance rather than social approval. It's not a tragic piece either. In spite of involving a risky subject, Tucker cleverly gives a comic touch to his writing by balancing it with the drama without making any of it even slightly melodramatic.
Bree is just a couple of days away from fulfilling her dream of becoming a women when suddenly she receives an unexpected phone call saying that her son's in jail. Bree is reluctant and not too happy about facing her past but after taking her therapist Margaret she goes to New York and bails her son out of jail and decides to drive with him to L.A. During this trip they tell each other about their lives (the use of flashbacks has been cleverly avoided).
Felicity Huffman delivers a brave and fantastic performance of what she herself described as the role of a lifetime. She displays Bree with insecurity, pathos, fear, humour and growth which really makes one forget that they're actually looking at an actress act. Her use of non-verbal language is remarkable. While in the beginning the audience may feel that they're looking at an ugly freak, one can't help but love the character after the end credits have rolled. Kevin Zegers intensely underplays his part as Bree's son Toby and does a fine job. Elizabeth Pena, Graham Greene and Fionulla Flanagan stand out in smaller roles.
'Transamerica' is a wonderful sincere film about very real people. It's about a woman and her son surviving in a difficult world. Though many have described Huffman's performance to be of Oscar calibre, the Oscars have rewarded many non-deserving performances. It is definitely one of the most challenging performances and one that will be remembered in the history of cinema. A fine piece of cinema.
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