Film puts a face on the T community

By |2005-01-19T09:00:00-05:00January 19th, 2005|Entertainment|

Throughout the LGBT community’s long battle for equal rights, one group of participants has often felt left out of the public discussion.
And with good reason.
For it’s certainly no secret that some gays and lesbians are uncomfortable including the transgender community – the “Ts” in LGBT – in our struggle. Others don’t feel they belong at all.
As such, the positions some community leaders espouse seemingly apply to its gay and lesbian members only, while issues of concern to our transgendered brothers and sisters are left ignored or forgotten.
It’s a complicated, multi-layered subject – one few outside the trans community completely grasp. And it’s because of that complexity that we often focus on political or philosophical issues rather than on the individual human beings who make up that segment of our community.
Therefore, what gets lost amidst the debate is any real and significant insight into the struggles many within the “T” community experience throughout their everyday lives.
That’s about to change – and quickly – with “Transamerica,” a powerful, warm and insightful new movie starring Felicity Huffman that explores one person’s transition from male to female in a world uncomfortable with transsexualism.
Samantha Claire Osborne – Bree, for short – is a white, educated, middle-aged, pre-op transsexual who is “living stealth” in a poor section of Los Angeles – that is, she’s secretly and physically a man going about her daily life as a woman while awaiting her final sexual reassignment surgery. Hers is a very quiet and lonely existence: She has no friends except for her therapist, and she has no contact with her parents or sister.
With the exception of her deep voice, few would question her gender. And Bree works hard hoping no one ever does.
A long-forgotten, frisky night in college comes back to haunt Bree – then Stanley – when a jailed teenager in New York calls claiming to be Stanley’s heretofore unknown son. With only a week until her surgery, Bree wants no part of Toby or his problems. But her therapist thinks differently. So before Bree can move forward, she must first resolve her past.
After arriving in New York, Bree heads for the city lock-up where she meets Toby, a 17-year-old runaway and street hustler arrested for shoplifting. Believing she’s a churchwoman who converts street people to Christianity, he agrees to drive back with her to Los Angeles so he can find his father and work in the film industry; Bree, however, has other plans: She secretly intends to take a side trip to Kentucky where she’ll return the teen to his stepfather.
Along the way they share one heck of a road trip – with many unexpected twists and turns – during which each makes some startling discoveries about themselves and about each other.
Writer/director Duncan Tucker’s movie is not a political statement masquerading as entertainment. Rather, it’s a poignant story that serves as a reminder that everyone needs to be loved and accepted for WHO they are and not WHAT they are. It’s a task fraught with potential pitfalls, yet Tucker successfully manages to avoid the stereotypes while crafting a tale filled with laughter and humanity, warmth and compassion.
But it’s Tucker’s strong cast that best makes his point.
Huffman, especially, shines as Bree. In the movie’s very powerful opening scenes we watch as Bree struggles with dignity to survive what is – and has been – a very hard life. Yet from a scared mouse blossoms a confident woman, a transformation Huffman accomplishes with great care and skill.
Toby, too, is also searching for love – and direction. However, he’s also a boy growing into manhood, a battle well defined by actor Kevin Zegers.
Supporting roles are also very well cast, especially Graham Greene (rancher Calvin Two Goats), Fionnula Flanagan (Bree’s mother Elizabeth) and Burt Young (her father, Murray).

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