Felicity Huffman plays desperate housewife Lynette Scavo on the popular TV miniseries DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES, which, though occasionally immensely entertaining, is also Desperately Silly. In TRANSAMERICA, Huffman has a Big Screen gig that should indisputably prove that she's an actress of considerable ability. The other desperate housewives, actresses Teri Hatcher, Marcia Cross, Eva Longoria, and Nicolette Sheridan, can only stand back and envy.
Here, Huffman is Bree Osbourne, born Stanley, a California man on the verge of the very last stage of his transgender transference, i.e. genital surgery that will, as he puts it, convert his "outey" to an "inney". In every other way, Stanley/Bree already presents to society as a female. What has otherwise been a relatively smooth transition hits a bump when Bree discovers, and must bail out of a New York City jail, his 17-year old transient son, Toby (Kevin Zegers), conceived in a long-ago liaison with a since-deceased girlfriend. Bree's problem is how to get Toby back to the Golden State without revealing to the teenager their biological relationship and the former's genetic gender. What's a poor girl to do?
When the creators were sitting around the table discussing casting for this clever film, there had to have been some argument. Do they find a man to play a man morphing to a woman, or a woman to play a man morphing to a woman? Their choice of Huffman was inspired, and it pays off brilliantly. This is perhaps not surprising as the excellent actor William H. Macy is the movie's producer (and, also, Huffman's real-life hubby). Indeed, Felicity's performance is eminently Oscar-worthy, and will be a definite eye-opener to audiences that are only familiar with her DH persona. Also notable in brief supporting roles are Graham Greene as the Navaho rancher, Calvin Manygoats, who gives Bree and Toby a ride after their car is stolen in New Mexico, and Fionnula Flanagan as Bree's distraught and resentful Jewish mother.
On the surface, TRANSAMERICA is a four-star, insightful, poignant, and amusing look at the practical problems associated with transgender transition. Huffman's performance, the best I can recall by an actress since Charlize Theron's triumph in MONSTER, elevates it to five-star, must-see status.