Life is more than the sum of its parts.
Felicity Huffman deserves every award she's received for her outstanding performance in Transamerica, a small but rich movie about Bree--formerly Stanley--a pre-operative male-to-female transexual awaiting gender-reassignment surgery who learns she has a wayward teenage son named Toby. When her therapist (Elizabeth Peña, Jacob's Ladder) strongarms Bree into facing her past, she bails Toby (Kevin Zegers, Dawn of the Dead) out of jail and they end up on a road trip across the country. Such a premise could feel forced, but the script and performances make it persuasive and natural. Bree wrestles with discomfort and compassion as she learns about Toby's own troubles, even while her own grow worse when she's forced to ask for help from her hostile parents (the superb Fionnula Flanagan, The Others, and Burt Young, Rocky). Transamerica doesn't push for any great catharsis, but instead slowly peels away the layers of Bree's defenses, laying bare her basic struggle for respect and a chance at happiness. In many ways it's a showy role, but Huffman (Desperate Housewives) keeps her acting simple, direct, and thoroughly compelling. --Bret Fetzer