Occasionally you come across a film that completely goes against any preconceived notions you might have had about it. Duncan Tucker's "Transamerica" is just such a film. With a story that follows a transsexual character, it wisely sidesteps any urge to be campy or to take itself too seriously. This pleasantly surprising film now makes its way to DVD courtesy of Genius Products.
Bree Osbourne (Felicity Huffman) is a pre-operative transgendered woman who is one week away from her final surgery. Everything seems to be going well for her - until the son that she unknowingly fathered seventeen years earlier walks into her life. Kevin Zegers plays Toby, Bree's obstinate, hustler son who is in desperate need of parental guidance.
Reluctant to reveal her true identity or to become emotionally involved with the boy, Bree passes herself off as a Christian social worker and decides to help Toby find a job so that he may live independently. The two then set off on a cross-country road trip that proves to be an experience that neither will soon forget.
Over the course of their trip, Bree and Toby encounter a slew of colorful characters, including a kind Native American (Graham Greene) who begins to fall for Bree. Fionnula Flanagan and Burt Young also add some flair as her outrageously dysfunctional parents who disapprove of her unorthodox lifestyle.
Despite the seemingly offbeat nature of this film, "Transamerica" is in many ways a rather traditional road movie with the usual trappings. The most surprising thing about the film is how utterly simple and believable it is. A big part of the movie's success is Huffman's irresistible and remarkable performance as Bree, a character we identify with rather than feel alienated by. At heart, she is no different from the rest of us and is searching for the same things we all long for.
Genius Products has delivered a very nice DVD release of this movie. The film is presented in a 1.78:1 anamorphic enhanced widescreen image. As the filmmakers shot on Super 16 and a shoestring budget, the picture quality is slightly grainy with occasionally washed-out colors, but this was intentional and in no way reflects poorly on the transfer. Under the circumstances, the film looks quite good and sharp, with no signs of compression artifacts or edge enhancement.
The audio is presented in only a 5.1 Dolby Digital English track. The relatively simple nature of this film does not require much more, though why there are no alternate language tracks is a mystery. Sound is clear, nicely showcasing the numerous songs that are played throughout the film.
There are also some very good supplemental features included on this release, starting with an audio commentary by director Duncan Tucker. "Transamerica" marks Tucker's film debut, and listening to him describe his unusual experiences, which involved some occasional guerilla tactics, is as much fun as the film itself. Tucker relates his anecdotes with wit and charisma, making this a must.
Next we have an 18-minute conversation between Tucker and star Felicity Huffman. Huffman, who at the time of filming was not yet a familiar face on prime time TV with "Desperate Housewives," offers her take on finding the emotional core in this most challenging of roles. After that, we get a 10-minute conversation with Tucker and young Kevin Zegers.
Dolly Parton serves up some toe-tapping fun in her music video for the film's Oscar-nominated song, "Travelin' Thru." We then get a brief "making of" featurette that ironically reveals more about the inspiration for the song than the video. Finishing off the release is an amusing blooper reel and a theatrical trailer.
"Transamerica" is a fascinating paradox - a road comedy with heart and a touching family saga with plenty of laughs amidst the sentiment. This new release from Genius Products offers some good insight on a very special film and is well-worth seeking out. Hop on for the ride and join Bree on her colorful, unpredictable trip through America's heartland. It's a journey you won't regret.