I knew nothing about Transamerica other than what the title suggested to me, it was a movie about a man wanting to become a lady, that was it. I almost feel embarrassed to say how little I knew about the film since it has been receiving a lot of acclaim.
So it was with curiosity that I attended the Press Screening at the Cameo and sat with my cup of coffee as the lights dimmed and the film began, and for some time I just wasn't sure if I was enjoying it.
It was odd because I realised I was sitting thinking about the film and wondering if I liked it or not while it was playing, and that's something I hardly ever do. I mean I love films so usually I'm drawn into them no matter what, but I wasn't to begin with and I don't know why.
Yet something happened, and I can't tell you exactly where, but during the film I was slowly coaxed in, and before I knew it I was caring about these characters, believing in them, and thoroughly enjoying their idiosyncrasies. No longer was I looking at a Transvestite character, but a character with a superb personality that was warm, witty, kind but amazingly messed up. In other words, human.
It's something that the character of Bree asks people to do to her, to see her, not what she was or what what other peoples preconceptions are of her, but what she is, and that's exactly the change that happens to you as you watch the film.
I noticed that throughout this film pivotal moments and moralistic points are common and low key, rather than have that big slap in the face moment that most Hollywood films would have to deliver the key moral of the tale, this prefers to gently remind you throughout. The film is full of dichotomies as is so true of life, and this is shown so well when the boy asks the native Indian Kelvin (played by Graham Greene), "why do you wear a cowboy hat?", "Because a band and a feather doesn't keep the sun off". Accept people for what they are and not what labels they are assigned suggest they should be.
I loved the ending and this moral of acceptance throughout the film. Everyone has their struggle and their secrets. Life just is and we need to get on and live it, let others live it their way and accept everyone for who they are. Well, at least that's what I took from the film.
I have to take my sun hat off to the wonderful Felicity Huffman as the lead. She is, and let me put this plainly, having to play a man behaving as a woman, and not just that but a man who is very awkward and unsure about himself all because of the world around him. This is no small feat, especially when you see her pull the part off so well.
When I watched the Channel 4 programme where actors talked about the greatness of other actors to produce the Worlds Greatest Actors List, they came back to a common theme. The greatest actors were subtle, and the acting was done in the body and the face, not with words and grand gestures.
This is so true of Huffman's performance, the subtlety of it is stunning. She makes the smallest of gestures, turns, looks, and even twitches of her lips, and it makes you totally believe she is an awkward man trying so hard to be a woman.
Throughout the film she grows and develops, with the help of her unknowing son Toby (played by Kevin Zegers), and slowly you see these traits and turns change and evolve until she really does become comfortable and happy with who she is. It's here that you feel genuine happiness for Bree and suddenly realise what has just happened over the last hundred minutes, you've grown to love the character.
Zegers is also pretty strong in the film, although it's not tough for him to play an angry struggling boy, it's the moments where his acceptance comes through that make him shine. It's also wonderful to see the great Greene on screen, I really do like his natural acting and he deserves to be in a lot more films with a lot more diversity.
The writing is superb here, for it is gentle and well paced, filled with reality and ironic humour that was wonderful to see and hear. There were a few laugh out loud moments (something I've hardly ever heard in a Press audience), and plenty of those moments where you recognise something in the characters or in the interactions and you snigger gently to yourself. It also finds time to take some interesting turns in the plot, some not so expected, but neither are they huge big crashing moments.
This is a really good movie, the writing is strong and Huffman shows that there's so much more to her than a desperate serial television mother. She's an amazing character actor that deserves great scripts and great roles.