A film thats all about family, "Transamerica" deftly addresses a delicate topic without ever digressing into campiness or making a parody out of the films subject matter.
Writer/director Duncan Tucker sets the bar incredibly high with this his feature film debut. Tuckers Transamerica takes the so-called normal dynamics of a family and adds a few delicious twists. A father receives a phone call informing him his sons in a New York jail. Up until the phone call, the man had no idea he fathered a child. Thats a twist weve seen before however in Transamerica, the long-lost dad is a transgender woman now named Bree whos days away from having the genital operation which will in essence be the final step in the long process of becoming a woman.
Bree knows the only sexual dalliance she had in her life as a male was a misguided fling in college, and this teenage boy must be the result of that brief relationship. But that knowledge does nothing to settle her already frazzled nerves.
Locked up in NY, Toby (Kevin Zegers) has no idea his dad is a transsexual living in stealth mode, meaning no one outside of a couple of doctors know the person he thinks is his dad is not biologically a woman. Unsure of what to do, Bree confides in her therapist who in turn refuses to sign off on Brees surgery until she deals with the situation.
Arriving in New York from LA, Bree introduces herself to Toby as a church woman whose mission it is to help him get straightened out. Tobys basically a good kid, hes just had a hard life and has turned to hustling on the streets as well as doing drugs to get by. The two are about as unlikely a pair of traveling companions as could be dreamed up. As they journey from the East Coast to the West, their relationship goes from antagonistic to civil to something much deeper.
With the meaty role of Bree in Transamerica, Huffman gets the opportunity to spread her wings and soar. Huffman alters her voice, her walk, the way she carries herself, and with the assistance of some heavy duty makeup, gets lost inside this character. Huffman delivers a career-defining performance for which shes earned nothing but praise.
Former Air Bud star Kevin Zegers transitions from kid roles to young adult with this performance. While all the attention has been focused on Huffman, Zegers no less outstanding. Playing a street hustler who wants to work in the adult film industry or a pet store Zegers is the key to making Transamerica work. One false move by Zegers as Toby and the story would have a were winking at you feel. It doesnt thanks to solid support from Zegers.
Delivering strong performances in supporting roles are Fionnula Flanagan as Brees high-strung mother, Burt Young as her more understanding father, and Graham Greene as a man who gives the traveling companions a lift when their car is stolen and who becomes infatuated with Bree - without knowing her history.
Transamerica caught me by surprise in a good way. At first unsure about the lead role being played by a female, I came to understand why the character of Bree needed to be played by a woman.
This is a surprisingly heartwarming movie and one of those rare films that leaves you wanting more. Where do Bree and Toby go from here? By the time the credits roll, weve become so involved in their lives that we want that question answered. How many movies can we say that about? To my way of thinking, far, far too few.
"Transamerica" was directed by Duncan Tucker and is rated R for sexual content, nudity, language and drug use.