Never having seen “Desperate Housewives,” I was not familiar with Felicity Huffman. In fact, looking through her credits, I realized I’ve never seen her in anything, in a part large enough to be noticed. So my first reaction was “Isn’t it nice that this pleasant but rather horse-faced woman with the odd voice found the perfect part for herself!” Imagine my surprise when I found her website, and realized she was a babe!
Okay, so the make-up department uglied her up, like they did for Charlize Theron in Monster. That’s only Step One. To make this unlikely story of a transsexual man (Bree Osbourne, the former Stanley O.) on the verge of The Operation discovering he has fathered a child, you need to do a lot more than just make yourself look mannish. In fact, the job is so complex that I wonder how a sane actress could take it on. She has to act like a man … who has schooled himself, rigorously, to a fault, to act like a woman. She has to be … not quite right, not all the time. She has to be very feminine (and it’s been my observation that transsexuals and transvestites are often more feminine—at least by their conception, their ideal, their image, of femininity—than 99% of females), and yet, when the little girl looks at her in the diner and asks “Are you a boy or a girl?” we have to believe the little girl could have spotted it.
And we do. Huffman has got this role down to the last nuance. She richly deserved her Oscar nomination, and I think she was actually better than Reese Witherspoon, though it was never in the cards that she would win. I mean, this picture cost one million dollars. One million! You can’t even shout “Action!” in Hollywood for that kind of chump change.
The rest of the film comes up a little short. It’s hard to believe the son didn’t figure it out sooner than he did. If she’s in a hurry to get from NY to CA, it doesn’t make sense to drive the back roads as they do. Bree’s mother is way over the top.
But these are minor points. The movie rests squarely on Felicity’s shoulders, and she makes it all work. She is prissy, but has a dry wit. She is kind and loving, a hard worker, but someone who has never finished anything she has started. She doesn’t want any part of this little drug-snorting brat she finds herself saddled with, but she steps up and does the right thing, and even seems to have reached a truce with him, at least. The movie doesn’t wrap up neatly with hearts and flowers, but there is hope, and isn’t that all we ever have in life?