One might assume that a filmmaker intrigued by the complexities of transgender life would find the subject sufficiently formidable to resist padding it out with glib sitcom contrivances. Unfortunately, such is not the case with ‘Transamerica’. Bree (Felicity Huffman), is just a week away from gender-reassignment surgery when she receives a call from a teenager who claims to be her long-lost son. Rather cruelly, Bree’s therapist claws back her go-ahead for the operation until her patient addresses the paternal situation. So Bree hops a flight to New York in search of Toby (Jason Zegers), falsely presenting herself as a Christian missionary when she bails the dim, sullen kid out of clink and invites him on a road trip back to LA.
Oscar-nominated Huffman is splendid as Bree, conjuring an air of tense and rueful contemplation that’s apt for a character who must measure and deliberate her every word and movement. For all of Huffman’s gifts and dedication, though, the casting of a Desperate Housewife does require a certain suspension of disbelief, one that writer-director Tucker pointlessly punctures when a little kid asks Bree, ‘Are you a boy or a girl?’ Apparently a child in Arkansas can suss out what a drug-huffing slice of Manhattan rough trade can’t, since Toby has to see Bree’s dick before he knows enough to start calling her a ‘freak’. The contortions of the script are a grim match for the film’s haphazard construction, though ugly camera angles and weed-whacker editing can’t blemish the pathos and intelligence in Huffman’s performance.