Movie Review - Boy Meets Girl

Last month, Bruce Jenner did an interview with Diane Sawyer for ABC's 20/20. It was an interesting and eye-opening Q & A, which will help to progress the image and overall acceptance of transgendered or transsexual people. Many of whom you wouldn't even know where transgendered or transsexual unless you were told. One such person is the subject of this movie. Not to take away from Jenner's story, which is an important story to tell, this story about a fellow transgendered woman does a whole lot more to progress the image and overall acceptance of transgendered or transsexual people.

It would be understandable to dismiss this movie for its cliche and stereotypical elements as it basically tells a teenage love story. Yet, it doesn't rely on the usual tropes. There's also such a genuineness and earnestness. Even though the movie employs judgmental characters, the movie overall doesn't make lasting judgmental moves, allowing and opening itself to nuance, compassion and understanding for all the characters and not just the transgendered one.

Michelle Hendley stars as Ricky, a transgendered girl. She was born a male who around the age of 8 or 9 realized that she wanted to transition and live life permanently as a female. She then spent the following seven years undergoing the transition, seeing doctors, taking hormones and dressing more like a girl. This movie doesn't show us this transition. We merely see Ricky as she is now and learn through dialogue her troublesome transition. I'm not sure if Hendley is actually transgendered, however, if we did not get this back-story, or any further dialogue about it, Hendley would join actresses like Harmony Santana in Gun Hill Road or Candis Cayne, as one whom you'd never know was transgendered unless you were told. This is probably because she started transitioning when she was still young.

Michael Welch (Joan of Arcadia and Twilight) co-stars as Robby, a college-age boy who lives in Kentucky, along side Ricky. He might be what you might call a redneck, if not for the fact that he is best friends with Ricky. He's been by her side before, during and after her transition, and he hasn't left. He visits her almost daily at her coffee shop job. He goes by her house often to hang out and watch reality TV shows like Keeping Up With the Kardashians. He's straight. He likes football, but he is totally accepting of Ricky who is arguably a redneck herself but very smart and sassy.

Alexandra Turshen plays Francesca, a girl that meets both Ricky and Robby in the coffee shop. She's a bubbly person with long-flowing, light-colored hair who wears short shorts. She's very cute and quite bright, and becomes intrigued with Ricky's fashion sense. She's also engaged to be married to a marine currently serving in Afghanistan who happens to be a former classmate of Ricky and Robby and team member during pee-wee football. Francesca didn't go to the same school, so she doesn't know that Ricky is transgendered, nor can she tell but yet, she's accepting and even attracted to Ricky.

Michael Galante plays David, the marine who is Francesca's boyfriend and soon-to-be fiancé. Ricky claims not to know him, but David knows her, and he doesn't accept her. He says horrible things about Ricky and is extremely transphobic, which is similar to homophobia. His level of anger and rage speaks to deeper issues, which any other movie might not explore and leave him as just a villain.

However, writer-director Eric Schaeffer does not just leave him as a villain. Even though David is only in four or five scenes, Schaeffer's script is so well-done that David feels like a fully-fleshed out character with a history and point-of-view one can understand. Galante's performance is able to arc from anger to fear to love in one shot with a singular look on his face. Schaeffer's work supports him and all the actors so well.

It might feel like an after school special, but it doesn't matter because the screenplay here is so good. Yes, there are hackneyed things like "shouldn't judge a book by its cover" but these are young people in Kentucky. Not every teen is from Dawson's Creek. What's remarkable is the honest and earnest conversations about gender and sexuality that these young people have.

Again, there's transphobia in this movie but the movie isn't mired in it. In fact, Schaeffer subverts a transphobic expectation of direness and turns it into a moment of hope and inspiration. He makes it known what the stakes are and the difficulties, but it's not overwhelmingly depressing. The characters are so well-rounded that you can't help but love them all.

It addresses gender issues so refreshingly with lines like "It's not about hating my body." It also addresses sexuality with a deconstruction of the differences between having intercourse for straight people as compared to intercourse with gay people. To reiterate, the judgment is lacking and mostly what remains is great, honest, earnest and compassionate conversations, more of what the world needs. The soundtrack is also fantastic.

Five Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but contains full-frontal nudity and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 38 mins.


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