BUY IT AT AMAZON: CLICK HERE!
STUDIO: Weinstein Company
RUNNING TIME: 104 Minutes
• Commentary by director Duncan Tucker
• Conversation with Duncan Tucker and Felicity Huffman
• Conversation with Duncan Tucker and Kevin Zegers
• Dolly Parton music video Travelin’ Thru
• Travelin’ Thru: Behind the Scenes featurette
(FYI, probably NSFW)
It’s sort of Victor/Victoria meets Planes, Trains and Automobiles.
Felicity Huffman, Kevin Zegers, Fionnula Flanagan, Elizabeth Pena, Graham Greene, Burt Young, Carrie Preston.
Pre-operative male-to-female transgender surgery candidate Bree Osbourne (Huffman) is struggling with satisfying all of the psychiatric and societal requirements to finally qualify for the surgery that will finally make Bree be on the outside what she is on the inside – a woman. A week before the surgery is to commence in LA, she gets a call from the New York juvenile detention center from a 17-year-old boy, Toby (Zegers), in lockup who turns out to be the son from her previous life as a man that she never knew she had. At the insistence of her therapist (Pena), she goes to New York to bail him out. She quickly discovers that Toby is just as messed up as she feels: he lives in a filthy shithole with two roommates, is a drug addict and turns tricks on the street.
Toby has a dream of going to LA, finding his father and doing gay porn. And since his mother died, he and has no other living family except for a stepfather in Kentucky. So Bree decides to road trip him back home so she can get on with her surgery and her life with a clear conscience, all the while never telling Toby that she’s his father. But when the stepfather turns out to be a child molesting, violent piece of shit, Bree has no choice but to continue with Toby across country back to LA until she figures things out. Along the way, they discover things about each other – and most of them not good – and bond as best as they can while trying to survive the experience.
After the results of this year’s Oscars and not having seen either Transamerica till now nor Walk the Line yet, all I’ve got to say is that Reese Witherspoon must have turned in the acting job of her life to beat out Huffman in this role. Because Huffman turns in a great performance as the messed up Bree who comes from a messed up family and has an even more messed up son in Toby. She convincingly portrays Bree as the painfully awkward man seeking to make this last major change in his life only to have that life turned completely on its ass at the worst possible time. Bree is a neurotic, not because she’s gender disphoric, but because her family life was unbearable and they’ve never been able to accept who she was inside. She’s also struggled with all of the pre-operative procedures such as electrolysis, Adam’s Apple shave, facial reconstruction and hormone therapy just to make the final preparation. She still has to consciously walk like a woman to avoid walking like a man, has to make a concerted effort to lighten her voice, and not surprisingly, is not a fan of the outdoors, which is funny because that’s where she frequently finds herself.
But as utterly screwed up as Bree is, she pales in comparison to Toby, who had an even tougher life with his mother’s death (he doesn’t even know it was a suicide) and the sexual molestation and beatings he suffered at the hands of his asshole hillbilly stepfather. Having lived on the streets and having to have turned tricks also hasn’t helped either. He’s a rebellious, no-bullshit street urchin who does what he has to to survive, because he’s had no choice. Together they play off each other beautifully and really make this road movie – not altogether the easiest kind of flick to pull off – really different and fun.
They also meet several characters along the way, including a hippie vegan hitchhiker (Grant Monohon) who screws them over and a nice Navajo (Greene) who gives them a hand. But the real characters come in the form of Bree’s family: her intolerant, sun-baked, country club mother (Flanagan), passive Jewish father (Burt Young) and recovering alcoholic sister (Carrie Preston). Bree and Toby are forced to make a stopover at Bree’s family’s house before they continue on the last leg of their journeys and everything that had been boiling up in the story comes to a head there, with usually not the best results.
Director Tucker lets the story flow without having any contrived situations, which can easily be done on a road movie. But again, this film belongs to Huffman; and she’s just as, if not more believable than recent Oscar winners who have changed their appearance: Hilary Swank (Boys Don’t Cry) and Charlize Theron (Monster), and certainly more so than Nicole Kidman with her ridiculous nose (The Hours). And likewise, Zegers looks like he’s successfully put four Air Bud movies behind him to become a credible performer. You might want to beware the fact that there’s just a wee bit too much man and boy flesh, including a mini Dirk Diggler shot for Huffman. Nevertheless, this is a solid effort all the way around.
The cover art is of the usually fun lenticular variety, which shows Huffman as Bree and in reality as herself. The film is shot in 1.78:1 and the audio is fine in Dolby Digital. There are several features, including a commentary by Tucker, and two good interview / riff sessions: Conversation with Duncan Tucker and Felicity Huffman and Conversation with Duncan Tucker and Kevin Zegers, the first being around 20-minutes and the latter clocking in around 10 minutes. There’s also the Dolly Parton music video, Travelin’ Thru and a quickie making-the-video featurette (Parton could have played the Bree role with no make up at all by the way…I mean holy shit that’s just scary). There’s a blooper reel and trailer to round things out.