In a year when Caitlyn Jenner became a media sensation and the Amazon series “Transparent” won multiple Emmys, comes the sometimes affecting drama “Carl(a),” which chronicles the journey of a pre-op transgender woman living in Brooklyn. Although filmed several years ago, the movie reaches theaters this week, no doubt buoyed by its timeliness and the presence of “Orange Is the New Black” star Laverne Cox in a supporting role.
Jocelyn Defreece stars as Carla, an aspiring shoe designer who makes her living as an online sex worker. Rejected by her working-class family, with the exception of her loving Grandpa (veteran character actor Mark Margolis, an Emmy nominee for “Breaking Bad”), Carla saves her money with the hope of one day being able to afford the surgery that will complete her transition.
Cox plays a prostitute named Cinnamon, who acts as a big sister to Carla and provides protection from neighborhood thugs. When Carla begins dating one of her clients, nebbishy computer programmer Sam (played by producer Gregg Bello), she begins to see the possibility of happiness for the first time.
Director Eli Hershko and co-writer Christopher Theokas do a nice job with the relationship between Carla and Grandpa, but the other roles go underdeveloped. The filmmakers are even less successful with plotting, telegraphing every major turn. By the time Carla unexpectedly acquires the money for her operation and faces a difficult choice, we are way ahead of her on what the decision will be.
No MPAA rating.
Running time: 1 hour, 14 minutes.
Playing: Lammle Music Hall, Beverly Hills.