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‘Transamerica’ is a funny, touching movie

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Felicity Huffman in “Transamerica” is certainly deserving of her recent Oscar nod for best actress.

This “Desperate Housewife” plays someone who’s more than a woman -- she’s a man who is a desperate week away from sex-change surgery. As Bree, Huffman conveys, with her careful enunciation and body language, the nuances of a dignified, bookish soul who is very lonely in her ladylike lilac. She has only her therapist (Elizabeth Peña) for a friend and claims to have no living family.

But then Bree gets a call from a 17-year-old in a New York jail. Toby is looking for Stanley, who he claims is his dad, to bail him out. A fearful Bree quickly ends the call, but when she admits to her therapist she really could be this boy’s father, she is forced to either deal with the situation or postpone her surgery.

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So off she goes from her pink Los Angeles apartment to New York, with her pink luggage and espadrilles, like a rose among the thorns. Bree meets Toby (Kevin Zegers), a good-looking street hustler who wants to become an actor in L.A. and live with his father. Bree does not reveal her true identity, instead posing as a church missionary who saves street kids. She takes him with her on a drive to L.A. via Kentucky in a disastrous attempt to reunite Toby with his stepfather.

“Transamerica” is made up of many small moments -- some funny, some touching -- and we come to care about the characters.

Graham Greene makes a charming cameo as perhaps the first man to find Bree attractive.

“Transamerica,” written and directed by Duncan Tucker, is a little too long but avoids most of the obvious cliches -- there’s no hint of “Dude Looks Like a Lady” on the soundtrack.

* SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a financial services company.

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