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Losing it

By |2006-10-12T09:00:00-04:00October 12th, 2006|Entertainment|

“20 Centimeters”
Reel Pride Film Festival
9:30 p.m. Oct. 15
Main Art Theatre, Royal Oak

If Pedro Almodovar had directed “Transamerica,” it would have been “20 Centimeters.” And it would not have been seen by nearly the number of moviegoers. Monica Cervera, who plays the film’s tranny star Marieta, is no Felicity Huffman, for one thing. And “20 Centimeters” is even more phallus-centered than its American counterpart. And it has elaborate musical numbers. And it’s in Spanish. These things don’t tend to bode well for American box office numbers. Hopefully audiences at the LGBT film festivals will be wiser than the general public.
That’s not to say that “20 Centimeters” is an easy film to swallow, even for the most liberated of moviegoers. It alternates between the rough life Marieta leads as a prostitute on the streets of Madrid and the flashy musical numbers she stars in during her fantasies.
It is the campy quality of these musical numbers that will either make or break “20 Centimeters” for viewers. Cervera does all of her own singing and dancing as Marieta and while she certainly has a lot of presence, some folks are going to have a hard time forgiving her for butchering Madonna’s “True Blue,” one of many songs she sings in English. Other numbers are far more successful, including Ani DiFranco’s “Pixie,” which, with its refrain of “suck up and be nice,” makes a surprisingly perfect tranny hooker anthem.
The film opens with Marieta face down in the desert, 30 miles outside of Madrid after a particularly difficult night. Besides her extra-large unwanted member, Marieta suffers from another problem: narcolepsy. As you might expect, this can be especially bad for a prostitute who needs to keep her wits about her on the street.
Marieta, like many pre-op transsexuals, dreams of the day when she can afford the operation that will allow her to finally be a full physical woman. Marieta, known at birth as Adolpho, was born with what many men dream about: a 20-centimeter penis – that’s about 8 inches for those of you who have a hard time with math.
“Having the same name and a dick as big as my dad gives me the creeps,” she says.
No doubt many men are reading this crossing their legs or shuddering at the thought of such an operation. In fact, depictions of male-to-female transsexuals in popular culture often perpetuate the idea that a sex-change operation is as simple and crude as “getting your dick chopped off.”
Not so, as anyone with any sense or compassion knows. Though “20 Centimeters” often pokes fun at the subject, it does not make light of it. Most of the people Marieta interacts with, from the dwarf with whom he shares an apartment and a bed to the doughy-faced old woman who gives all the local transfolk hormone shots out of her apartment, are very aware of her trans status and, for the most part, supportive. But Marieta’s life is hardly a cake walk. She can’t get a “respectable” job, for one, because no one will hire her. When she finally manages to land legitimate work – as a janitor – she is told she must dress to match the gender on her ID card. That gender is, of course, male.
To make matters more complicated, when she finally finds a gorgeous boyfriend (Pablo Puyol), he seems to be attracted to the very thing she wishes to be rid of. This plot point attempts to hold the film together (and lets the film venture into several of its soft-core porn-like moments), but the heart of the film is truly the heart of Marieta herself.
“20 Centimeters,” though leaning heavily on its own cross-your-legs-and-bite-your-nails premise, is really a film about character: being true to yourself and being who you want to be, even when the cost is high.

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