|File:Transamerica (film) poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Duncan Tucker|
|Produced by||William H. Macy|
|Written by||Duncan Tucker
William H. Macy
|Music by||David Mansfield|
|Edited by||Pam Wise|
|Distributed by||The Weinstein Company
Transamerica is a 2005 independent comedy-drama film produced by IFC Films and The Weinstein Company. The film tells the story of Bree, a transgender woman (Felicity Huffman), who goes on a road trip with her long-lost son Toby (Kevin Zegers).
One of the major themes of the film is the personal journey toward self-discovery, according to interviews with the director and actors. The screenplay was inspired in part by conversations between screenwriter/director Duncan Tucker and his then roommate Katherine Connella.
One week before her vaginoplasty, a conservative Transgender woman - a male at birth - named Sabrina 'Bree' Osbourne (Felicity Huffman) receives an unexpected phone call from a young man named Toby Wilkins (Kevin Zegers), a 17-year-old jailed in New York City. He asks for Stanley Schupak (Bree's birth name), claiming to be Stanley's son.
Bree was previously unaware she had a son; she now wants to break with her past and renounce him. However, Bree's therapist (Elizabeth Peña) refuses permission for her operation if she does not face up to her past ties before facing her new future.
Bree flies from Los Angeles to New York to bail Toby out of jail. Toby is a foul-mouthed runaway plus small-time drug user and male "hustler". His mother committed suicide when he was a child after which he was raised by his stepfather, whom he says he does not want to see.
Bree pretends to be a Christian missionary and persuades Toby to ride with her back to the West Coast, secretly planning to leave him at his stepfather's along the way. When they arrive in the town of Callicoon, Kentucky, it turns out that Toby's stepfather was very abusive and he molested him several times in his youth. To Bree's dismay, her plan to leave Toby with him fails miserably. Bree and Toby continue driving to Los Angeles together. They also stop by a house in Dallas where a group of transgender women (many of whom are old friends of Bree's) are hosting a gender pride gathering. Later on in the trip, when Bree has to urinate, Toby accidentally discovers that Bree has male genitalia. He tries to be open-minded about it, but is angry that Bree had not told him prior to his unintentional discovery.
After their car and money are stolen by a young hitchhiking hippie who calls himself a "peyote shaman" (Grant Monohon), Toby makes some money by prostituting himself to a truck driver. To Bree he pretends that he got the money from selling some drugs he had taken along for his own use. They get a ride with a kindly rancher Calvin Many Goats (Graham Greene) to Bree's parents' house in Phoenix, Arizona. Here they find her pampered and self-centred mother Elizabeth (Fionnula Flanagan), her Jewish father Murray (Burt Young) who seems to be dominated by Elizabeth, and her rebellious and sarcastic sister Sydney (Carrie Preston). Elizabeth disapproves of Bree's transsexuality (it is mentioned that she has been estranged for some time from her because of her transphobia), but is astonished to find out she has a grandson. She is kind to Toby and invites him to stay and live with them. Toby likes the luxury and kindness, but hesitates because he does not like how disrespectful they are to Bree. Realizing he has feelings for Bree, he tries to seduce her, saying that he will marry her if she wants. Bree realizes she must tell Toby the truth immediately, saying that she was his real father. Toby is appalled and infuriated that Bree had not disclosed this earlier. Overnight he steals money and valuable antiques from the house and disappears. Heartbroken, Bree returns to Los Angeles via a plane ticket bought by her parents. Her family finally accepts her calling herself Bree, she has a completely successful surgery, but she is unhappy because she feels she will never again see or hear from Toby. The therapist visits Bree in recovery and Bree, after she confesses she made a mistake, sobs and cries heavily on her shoulder.
Some months later, Bree is surprised to see Toby knock at her front door. Bree invites Toby inside and he reveals to her he has turned 18, bleached his hair blonde, and has become an adult actor in gay pornographic films in Los Angeles. Bree is vibrant, happy, and enjoying her job as a waitress at the restaurant where she was formerly washing-up. Bree and Toby reconcile, seemingly happy to have each other.
- Felicity Huffman as Sabrina "Bree" Osbourne (formerly Stanley Schupak)
- Kevin Zegers as Toby Wilkins
- Graham Greene as Calvin Many Goats
- Fionnula Flanagan as Elizabeth Schupak
- Burt Young as Murray Schupak
- Carrie Preston as Sydney Schupak
- Elizabeth Peña as Margaret
The Transamerica soundtrack includes cuts written by members of Old Crow Medicine Show. Christopher Day "Critter" Fuqua wrote "Take 'Em Away", performed by the group. "We're All in This Together" was written by Ketch Secor and Willie Watson, also performed by Old Crow. Both songs were published by Blood Donor Music, Administered by Bug Music, Inc. (BMI), and made available courtesy of Nettwerk Productions. "Travelin' Thru" was written and performed by Dolly Parton. The song was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Song, for the Golden Globe for Best Original Song, and for the Broadcast Film Critics Association for Best Song. According to the New York Times website, "Travelin' Thru" won for best original song at the Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards 2005. It was also nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Song from a Movie.
The film received generally positive reviews from critics. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 76 percent of critics gave Transamerica positive reviews, based on 132 reviews, with the consensus that "a terrific performance by Felicity Huffman carries this unconventional but touching transgender road movie." Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 66 out of 100, based on 37 reviews. Film critic Roger Ebert stated that "Felicity Huffman brings great empathy and tact to her performance as Bree."
Transamerica has been criticized for attempting to normalize the experience of a transgender woman. This has been thought to ensure profits and wide distribution of the film, as might be the case with other Hollywood films that feature transgender experiences in their plots. Transamerica is also criticized for not using a transgender actor for a transgender role. Many[who?] criticize the film's choice of casting a cisgendered actor, because this implies that a cisgendered woman is better suited for a role in a film that proves transgendered women are in fact valid women. In light of the recent Academy Award-winning performance by Jared Leto as a transgender woman in Dallas Buyers Club and remembering Hilary Swank's Academy Award win for her role as a transgender man in Boys Don't Cry, there has been much debate on this issue.[when?] Some[who?] say that although roles should be given to the best actor regardless of any controversy, Hollywood needs to be more sensitive when casting roles concerning minority groups.
Nominations and awards
- Independent Spirit Awards
- Academy Awards
- Berlin International Film Festival
- Won – Reader Jury of the Siegessäule
- Broadcast Film Critics Association
- Deauville Film Festival
- Won – Best Screenplay (Duncan Tucker)
- Nominated – Grand Special Prize
- GLAAD Media Awards
- Won – Outstanding Film – Limited Release
- Golden Globes
- National Board of Review
- Won – Best Actress (Felicity Huffman)
- Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards 2005
- Won – Best Original Song (Dolly Parton, for the song "Travelin' Thru")
- Satellite Awards
- Won – Best Actress (Felicity Huffman)
- Screen Actors Guild Award
- Nominated – Best Actress in a Lead Role (Felicity Huffman)
- Tribeca Film Festival
- Won – Best Actress (Felicity Huffman)
- Cannes Film Festival 2006
- Won (Chopard Trophy) – Male Revelation Kevin Zegers
- Box Office Mojo
- Scott, A. O. (December 2, 2005). "A Complex Metamorphosis of the Most Fundamental Sort". The New York Times.
- Connella, Katherine (February 28, 2006). "Transamerica and Me". The Advocate: 50. via Google Books
- Chester, Craig (April 1, 2004). Why the Long Face?: The Adventures of a Truly Independent Actor. Macmillan. p. PT107. ISBN 9781429971980. via Google Books
- "Films set, or filmed in, the Catskills". Catskill Mountainkeeper. Youngsville, New York. Retrieved 2011-05-23.
Parts of the movie Transamerica (2005) starring Felicity Huffman were filmed in Callicoon, NY though in the movie it's referred to as Callicoon, KY
- "Transamerica Movie Reviews, Pictures – Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2008-07-25.
- "Transamerica (2005): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2008-07-25.
- Breight, Debra (Spring 2014). "Transgender Misrepresentations in the Paratexts of Motion Pictures: Masking the Authenticity of the Transgender Experience in TransAmerica and Boys Don't Cry" (PDF). Sprinkle: An Undergraduate Journal of Feminist and Queer Studies. 7: 18–25. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
- Ira, Stephen. "LGBTQI Week: Transamerica". btchflcks.com. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
- Reynolds, Daniel. "Is 'Transface' a Problem in Hollywood? Hilary Swank, Andrea James, Natasha Lyonne, Armistead Maupin, and more weigh in on casting discrimination in the entertainment industry.". The Advocate. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
- Cane, Caroline. "Whose Role is It Anyway? Misrepresentations in Film". fordhamram.com. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
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