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Laramie Movie Scope: TransAmerica

Gender-bending road movie moves fast

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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March 2, 2006 -- This offbeat road movie about a transsexual mother-father who takes his/her son on a road trip across the country from New York to Los Angeles zips along at a quick pace. The two form a bond, even though the son is unaware that the woman he is traveling with is really his father dressed in drag. Felicity Huffman stars as Bree (Stanley), the man who would be a woman. He is on his way to Los Angeles for a sex change operation. Huffman's performance is very good, but her character is actually kind of bland because she is so repressed. The son, Toby (Kevin Zegers of “Dawn of the Dead”) whose own sexuality is somewhat ambiguous, is a much more interesting character. There are also enough other interesting characters and plot developments to make the story compelling.

One of the better scenes in the movie has Bree confronting his traditional family in full drag. This is where the simmering conflicts in the movie come to a boil. Bree's Parents, played by Bert Young of“Micky Blue Eyes,” and Fionnula Flanagan of “Tears of the Sun,” have fairly predictable, but entertaining reactions to Stanley's gender switch. Bree's sister, Sydney (Carrie Preston of “The Legend of Bagger Vance”), a recovering alcoholic, is glad that Stanley is the center of attention. It takes the spotlight off her own problems. Stanley's mother, Elizabeth, is the dominant member of the family. She quickly decides that she wants her newfound grandson, Toby, to live in her house. This, and other developments causes a major upheaval in the relationship between Bree and Toby.

The script features some good dialogue and the scenery is interesting. The cross-country trip stays on the nation's back roads, which are loaded with interesting characters, including the ever-reliable Graham Greene. He plays a horse rancher who is smitten with Bree. Unfortunately, Greene's part in the film is small. Much of the film is taken up with uncovering layers of emotional insulation that Bree and Toby have erected to protect themselves from pain. Eventually, these layers are worn down, leaving both of them vulnerable to life and love. Although the film's view of life seems somewhat downbeat, it isn't quite as bad as it sounds. While it is far from being an upbeat movie, it does have a somewhat positive view of Bree's entire family and their ability to love each other regardless of what happens. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2006 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)