Family is a major theme in this year’s Mardi Gras film festival. Marriage, mothers, making babies and making amends -“ all feature prominently in the 15-day festival that opens with My Queer Career at the State Theatre on 16 February.
The Mardi Gras Film Festival also offers one of the first chances to see a handful of features soon to open in the cinemas, including Rent, Kinky Boots starring Joel Edgerton, and Transamerica featuring the Oscar-nominated performance of Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman as a male-to-female transgender.
Felicity Huffman has been on just about every Best Actress nomination list this season for her trans-performance but her acceptance speech has seen little action at the podium. More is the shame.
Huffman’s on-screen transformation from GG (genetic girl) to pre-op transgender woman is quite startling. It’s not the voice -“ pitched to a register that is neither masculine nor feminine -“ although it’s most convincing.
Nor is it the conservative hairdo or her Martha Graham nightmare of a wardrobe, or the Mary Kaye make-up that marks the performance as a stand-out.
It’s the inside stuff that Huffman nails. It’s the trembling anxiety dancing across the forehead of her character Bree as she worries if she is passing -“ or not passing -“ as a real woman.
Everyone has had experiences like the ones Bree has, Huffman says. Being self-conscious on an excruciating level, not fitting in, wishing people could see you as you really are, having to hide your true self from those you love.
True gender dysphoric individuals experience this at an intense level, but it is still a truth of the human soul.
It is only a week until the final operation that will mark Bree’s transition from man to woman. Then she receives a call from a teenage street hustler looking for his father.
Toby (Kevin Zegers), it turns out, is the result of Bree’s one heterosexual venture as a man. Toby is Bree’s son and he’s in jail in New York.
Bree’s therapist threatens to withhold permission for sexual reassignment surgery unless Bree comes to terms with her masculine past and comes out to the boy.
As far as road movies go, director Duncan Tucker’s Transamerica seems a little contrived. Bree has a date with destiny and the surgical knife in Los Angeles.
Instead of flying back from New York, she drives herself and Toby coast to coast. Crikey, you could fly for less than that. It’s clear the road trip exists solely as a device for Bree to resolve her relationship with her estranged family, come out to her son and find true love.
Put that narrative conceit aside and Transamerica is a heartening story about family and acceptance.
For a real life version of Transamerica during the film festival, dip into Jules Rosskam’s documentary Transparent which features the stories of 19 female-to-male transgender parents. Transparent screens with Transfamily on 22 February.
One of the first films to depict legalised gay marriage comes from Spanish director Manuel G? Pereira in the comedy Queens. The queens of the title are actually the mothers of five gay men about to march down the aisle at Spain’s first gay marriage.
Weddings bring out the best and worst in people and the mothers, fathers and sons struggle with the anxiety of the upcoming group nuptials at the first mass gay wedding.
Something of an homage to the early screwball comedies of Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, Queens comes with similarly extreme plot twists triggered by slapstick moments like a runaway dog, mistaken identities and inappropriate sexual liaisons. (Pereira also casts Pedro’s first muse Carmen Maura as one of the mothers, and another mother claims to have acted with Almodovar.)
There are many eye-rolling annoying moments where the comedy is just too Bewitched or Happy Days for my liking but by the time the bouquets are thrown, Queens wins you over.
Making babies is the order of the day for Venla and the staff of a fertility clinic in the offbeat Finnish drama Producing Adults.
Venla is a psychologist screening parents for treatment. Meanwhile she’s trying to fall pregnant with her reluctant long-term boyfriend Antero.
Speed skater Antero sees his trainer swamped by an ever-increasing number of children. He decides parenthood would be the death of his cosy romance and takes action.
When Venla discovers Antero has had a secret vasectomy, she turns to the new woman doctor at the clinic,
Satu, who suggests they raid the clinic sperm bank for a suitable donor. But things go pear-shaped when the bisexual Satu falls for Venla.
Producing Adults is a wryly funny film about parenthood: about who can, can’t or won’t fall pregnant, and the unexpected paths pregnancy can take you along.
Transamerica screens on 17 February at 7:30pm, Queens on 18 February at 9:40pm, and Producing Adults on 26 February at 7pm -“ all at the Academy Twin Cinema, Paddington.