Transamerica (2005) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Felicity Huffman plays Bree, a pre-op transsexual who receives some shocking news a week before his ... er .. her surgery: he fathered a son nearly two decades earlier. The son is in a New York jail for male hustling, and his mother is dead. Something about the situation brings out the parental instincts in Bree. She bails the boy out of jail and takes him on a road trip across America, originally because he/she was going to rescue the boy from hustling by returning the lad to his step-father. That turned out to be a bad decision. The trip eventually leads them to the boy's grandparents. The major comic complication is that Bree doesn't tell her son that she is a biological man, or that they are related. The gender secret gets betrayed by the presence of a penis, but the father/son secret goes on for the first 2/3 of the film or more, and it actually seems to be working fairly well, The two are bonding. Unfortunately, they bond so effectively that the boy falls in love, and makes a pass at him/her.

Talk about a dysfunctional family!

You think the kid was fucked up before? Hell, those were the good times when he only had to deal with being a junkie and a male prostitute. Think of what he's going through his mind now. How'd you like to make a serious pass at a hot chick and find out it's your dad?

Transamerica is a real oddball of a movie. The plot description makes the film sound like a jaded black comedy, but it's really not like that at all. It's essentially a warm-hearted sitcom at its core, except that the sitcom family's usual spate of wacky problems are all XXX rated in this case. The nature of the issues notwithstanding, the film tackles its problems with wide-eyed earnestness, and has a genuine Midwestern Christian sweetness to it. Instead of holding itself aloof from the odd characters, as Alexander Payne might do in his films, it views them all with compassion, the way you would view them if they were your own children.

And you know what? The whole thing works pretty well. It pulls in a few laughs without forcing too much, and it generates a few tender moments along the way. It succeeds because it doesn't violate its own premise. Although the set-up is quite wild, as I described above, the execution sticks to a reasonable portrayal of how real people would deal with the situation. And they are not only real people, but decent human beings. The boy may be a male hustler who has a screwed-up life, but that doesn't keep him from having the same feelings that you or I would have had at his age, given the situations he has to face. His dad may actually be a woman waiting for the right body, but you'll forget about that after a couple of minutes and just get involved in his/her situation. For that involvement, you may credit the script which defines Bree not as a transsexual first, but as a person whose genitals are only a portion of her struggle for self-definition. You may also credit the actress Felicity Huffman for bringing dignity, realism, and subtlety to the role of Stanley/Bree.

Don't be misled by what I have said. The tone of the film is compassionate and matter-of-fact, but I don't recommend taking grandma or going with your daughter. Transamerica is rated R, but I don't know how it pulled that off. It's NC-17 at heart: full frontal nudity from two males and a female, plus a clear shot of Felicity Huffman pissing with her prosthetic penis. Is Felicity the first person to do full frontal female and male nudity in the same film? In addition to the nudity, there is a constant stream of discussion about drugs, male hustling and gay porno (with the actual acts performed off camera.)

I don't suppose it will ever find much of an audience, but it isn't a bad watch at all, and since it was made for a modest one million dollars, it may even turn a profit. 



  • Features not yet announced.


Felicity Huffman does full frontal nudity as a man and a woman.

Kevin Zegers shows his bum in two scenes, and comes very close to showing his penis (about the top 2/3 appear on camera)

Grant Monohon shows his butt in a skinny dipping scene, and one shot also includes his penis, albeit from a great distance.

The Critics Vote ...

  • It was nominated for two Golden Globes: for Dolly Parton's song and Felicity Huffman's performance.


The People Vote ...

  • Box Office Mojo. It was budgeted at $1 million. It has not yet expanded to a significant number of theaters.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, it's a B-, a surprisingly good indie. It will never get beyond a small audience, but I believe this film would even amuse and charm many people who would swear they would like a dramedy about the problems of a transsexual and a teenaged male hustler. I started out skeptical, but its compassion and complete lack of pretentiousness make it click for me.

Return to the Movie House home page