SHORT TAKE: “Transamerica” (*)

Posted by · 8:23 pm · November 1st, 2005

TransamericaIt’s a very rare occasion that I walk out on a film. I tend to give everything a chance, and, especially in my life as a critical mind and writer, I feel I at least have the responsibility of seeing a thing from all sides.

I did not walk out on “Transamerica,” but boy did I want to.

Let us not bother with the mountain of issues the film either clobbers with a mallet or otherwise dodges completely.  Let’s leave alone it’s existence in a woefully surface-scratching state unworthy even of the label “sitcom-ish.”  And let’s also set aside the most dreadful character illustration we’ve seen in a film this year (misguided former hooker and wannabe junkie Toby Osbourne).

Yes, let’s forget all of those elements for a moment and simply ponder what the heck this film is trying to say.

I think there are a number of statements floating around in the filmmaker Duncan Tucker’s head. But none of them ever come out in a coherent manner.

Something about bonding? Commentary on family reaction to relatives of LGBT persuasion? Coming of age issues concerning sons and fathers? Potential abounds!

The film takes itself seriously at terribly wrong times and considers itself light-hearted and jovial at even worse moments.

Felicity Huffman’s raspy, straining-to-sound-like-a-former-man voice is unbearable 10 minutes after we first hear it, even if a decent performance lurks underneath the makeup-soaked exterior of phony one-liners and trying melodrama.

And every moment with potential purpose is rung dry of appeal and cinematic worth each and every step of the way, making for a film stripped past the bone to the marrow of boredom.

Oscar talk may still abound for Huffman’s – if anything – unique portrayal. And it may very well still be warranted. Harvey Weinstein’s real winner this year is obviously Judi Dench in the crowd-pleasing (and equally hollow) “Mrs. Henderson Presents,” and Huffman could easily fall the way of Indie Spirit and never see the light of day again, but who knows? She’s a Desperate Housewife married to an Academy nominee after all.

I don’t know what happened to “Transamerica” along the way, and where the road eventually led, I’m tempted to say I don’t care. Regardless – and I realize it’s a tough boat to row – this has to be one of, if not the worst cinematic outing I’ve personally witnessed this year.




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