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Transamerica (film)

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Title: Transamerica (film)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: 78th Academy Awards, Kevin Zegers, 21st Independent Spirit Awards, 63rd Golden Globe Awards, List of lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender-related films by storyline
Collection: 2000S Comedy-Drama Films, 2000S Lgbt-Related Films, 2005 Films, American Comedy-Drama Films, American Films, American Independent Films, American Lgbt-Related Films, American Sex Comedy Films, Bisexuality-Related Films, Buddy Films, Country Music Films, Directorial Debut Films, English-Language Films, Films Featuring a Best Drama Actress Golden Globe Winning Performance, Films Shot in Arizona, Films Shot in Los Angeles, California, Films Shot in New York, Films Shot in New York City, Ifc Films Films, Independent Films, Lgbt-Related Films About Jews and Judaism, Road Movies, The Weinstein Company Films, Transgender in Film
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Transamerica (film)

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Duncan Tucker
Produced by William H. Macy
Written by Duncan Tucker
William H. Macy
Starring Felicity Huffman
Kevin Zegers
Graham Greene
Fionnula Flanagan
Burt Young
Carrie Preston
Elizabeth Peña
Music by David Mansfield
Cinematography Stephen Kazmierski
Edited by Pam Wise
Distributed by The Weinstein Company
IFC Films
Release dates
  • February 14, 2005 (2005-02-14) (Berlinale)
  • December 2, 2005 (2005-12-02)
(United States)[1]
Running time
103 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1 million
Box office $15,151,744

Transamerica is a 2005 independent comedy-drama film produced by IFC Films and The Weinstein Company.[2] 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).

The film is marked by an Academy Award–nominated and Golden Globe–winning performance by Huffman, who is also known for her performance in Desperate Housewives.

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.[3][4]


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Soundtrack 3
  • Critical reception 4
  • Nominations and awards 5
  • Home media 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


One week before her vaginoplasty, Sabrina 'Bree' Osbourne (Felicity Huffman) receives a phone call from 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 her 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.

Bree flies from Los Angeles to New York to bail Toby out of jail. Toby is a runaway plus small-time drug user and male "hustler". His mother committed suicide, after which he was raised by his stepfather, whom he does not want to see again.

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 fictional town of Callicoon, Kentucky,[5] it turns out that Toby's stepfather is abusive and he molested him, and so this plan fails. Toby and Bree continue 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. During the trip when Bree has to urinate, Toby accidentally discovers that Bree is transsexual. He is open-minded about it, but is angry that Bree had not told him.

After their car and money are stolen by a white, hippie hitchhiker 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 conservative 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 excited 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, that she was his real father. Toby is angry that Bree had not disclosed this earlier. Overnight he steals money from the house and disappears. 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 not happy because she feels she made a mistake with Toby. The therapist visits Bree in recovery and Bree cries on her shoulder.

Some months later Toby has turned 18, bleached his hair, and becomes an 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. The film ends with Toby showing up at Bree's door, and the two reconcile.



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.

Critical reception

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."[6] Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 66 out of 100, based on 37 reviews.[7] 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.[8] Transamerica is also criticized for not using a transgender actor for a transgender role. Many 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.[9] 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. Some 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.[10][11]

Nominations and awards

Home media

The film was released on DVD on May 23, 2006 in North America. There no plans for a North American Blu-ray release for it yet however, the Blu-ray was released in Italy.

See also


  1. ^ Box Office Mojo
  2. ^  
  3. ^ Connella, Katherine (February 28, 2006). and Me"Transamerica". The Advocate: 50.  via Google Books
  4. ^ Chester, Craig (April 1, 2004). Why the Long Face?: The Adventures of a Truly Independent Actor. Macmillan. p. PT107.   via Google Books
  5. ^ "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 
  6. ^ "Transamerica Movie Reviews, Pictures – Rotten Tomatoes".  
  7. ^ "Transamerica (2005): Reviews".  
  8. ^ 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. 
  9. ^ Ira, Stephen. "LGBTQI Week: Transamerica". Retrieved 18 March 2015. 
  10. ^ 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.".  
  11. ^ Cane, Caroline. "Whose Role is It Anyway? Misrepresentations in Film". Retrieved 18 March 2015. 

External links

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