End of Winter 2006: Year-in-Review  
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RS's Year in Review

Ten Best

10: Junebug
9: Grizzly Man
8: The Squid and the Whale
7: Tropical Malady
6: The Intruder
5: 2046
4: A History of Violence
3: Caché
2: Kings and Queen
1: The New World

But What About
-Darwin's Nightmare
-Happy Here and Now
-A Hole in My Heart
-The Holy Girl
-Look at Me
-Oliver Twist
-Turtles Can Fly
-Just Friends

Get Over It
-Brokeback Mountain
-The 40-Year-Old Virgin
-Funny Ha Ha
-Park Chanwook
-Sin City

-Grizzly Man
-History of Violence

Our Two Cents


-Breakfast on Pluto
-Danny Boy/Angel
-The Butcher Boy
-Mona Lisa
-High Spirits
-The Miracle
-The Crying Game
-Interview with the Vampire
-Michael Collins take one
-Michael Collins take two
-In Dreams
-The End of the Affair
-The Good Thief
-The Company of Wolves
-We're No Angels/Not I
-The Picture of a Woman:
 Sexuality in Mona Lisa,
 The Miracle
and The Crying Game

Shot/Reverse Shot: Munich
Wisniewski vs. Koresky

-Emile de Antonio,
 director of Point of Order and Year of the Pig

-Rachel Boynton,
 director of Our Brand Is Crisis

New Releases

DVD Reviews

the Reverse Shot Blog

  Father, Mother and Son
By Leah Churner

Dir. Duncan Tucker, U.S., Weinstein Company

Given a choice between gay movies this winter—excluding the obvious discrepancies in promotion and distribution—it is unsurprising that audiences picked cowboys over trannies. Cowboys have cachet. A gay cowboy story is a great vehicle for pissing off the Right, and you can’t deny that “western” aesthetic is totally happening these days. The transgendered, on the other hand, are completely passé, so hopelessly 1996, and not shocking at all.

So Transamerica, writer/director Duncan Tucker’s debut, has a few things working against it, not least of all its mawkish, pun-addled title. I expected it to be another tired, made-for-LOGO movie, but Transamerica isn’t as much about gayness as it is about parent-child relations (which, I admit, sounds supergay). As a comedic rumination on the fallout of interrupted parent-child relationships and attempts at redemption, it is less akin to Brokeback than Broken Flowers.

How? Both Bill Murray and this Desperate Housewife in double-drag (Felicity Huffman) portray men on cross-country car trips, grappling with the sudden fact of fatherhood. Transamerica throws some serious complications into the mix, of course; the protagonist is not simply a bachelor but a preoperative MTF transsexual bachelor(ette), and her son is not an elusive white whale but a very real presence—a gay hottie, to boot.

While undergoing psychological evaluations prior to her long-awaited sexual-reassignment surgery, Huffman’s Bree discovers that she might have unwittingly fathered a child, Toby (Kevin Zegers). To her indignation, her therapist refuses to give medical consent until she investigates this possibility. Bree begrudgingly flies from Los Angeles to New York and bails the kid in question out of jail. She is determined to dump the 17 year-old hustler at his stepfather’s place in Kentucky so that he cannot further hinder her opportunity to go under the knife.

Disowned by her parents, Bree has no interest in family. Son or no son, her mental state is poised between two alternatives: sex change or suicide. The psychological evaluations, her physician points out, are arbitrary, as gender dysphoria is generally recognized as a serious disorder, and sexual reassignment is not recognized as a cure. Spreading goodwill to the world through life-affirming musical numbers is not on her agenda as a woman. She desperately wishes to be average and inconspicuous, so in drag she more closely resembles Dana Carvey’s Church Lady than Hedwig. Her resolve to pass as a woman, and belief that surgery is her only salvation, smacks of religious fanaticism, and her frigid demeanor, stiff walk, timid voice and general refusal to let her guard down are wholly mistakable for moral uptightness. When Bree meets Toby, she claims to be a Catholic missionary worker (“from the Church of the Potential Father”), and this disguise requires no stretch of the imagination.

So they hit the road, and the movie brims a bit excessively with generation gap mishaps—youngster Toby ruffles feathers with his smoking, loud music, errant grammar, late slumber, and vegetable avoidance. Bree has a stick up her ass, and to Toby’s bewilderment, gets offended when he calls her “dude.” While dabbling in the token ingredients of the odd-couple-on-a-road-trip story, Transamerica is at its weakest, but Felicity Huffman’s performance is stunning enough to sustain curiosity. She is instantly and consistently believable as a man floundering in the direction of womanhood, and imposes an inscrutable verisimilitude upon this beyond-the-pale scenario. Thankfully, absurdity is not lost on Tucker’s characters.

More menacing than their differences are their similarities, and beneath the yuks lurks a deeply disquieting tension. Bree’s determination to hide her identity from Toby becomes more and more dangerous as his attachment to her verges on sexual obsession. From the unbearable awkwardness of the Oedipal horror story the only suitable outcome is a happy ending. Predictably, Bree makes a healthy peace with the incensed sexpot, and their reconciliation is a source of happiness and security more profound than her eventual surgery. At most, Transamerica has resonance as a meditation on the flaccidity of our plans at the behest of chance and our inability to bargain our way out of disappointment. At the very least, it is more than the sum of its clichés.

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