Stars: Hilary Swank, Chloe Sevigny, Peter Sarsgaard
This fascinating film explores the startlingly different and disturbing but very real life of a guy named Brandon Teena who haunted rural Lincoln and Falls City, Nebraska looking for love in all the wrong places. Because, you see, Brandon Teena was not quite what he made himself out to be. He was really Teena Brandon, born a girl and suffering from a “sexual identity crisis”, that is to say, a bonfide transsexual-in-waiting.
We know from the start of the film who Brandon is and why and what he’s looking for. A bit of a daring-doer, Brandon loves the bars and loves passing as a guy; getting the girl completes the image he has of himself. We discover that the only truth to Brandon’s existence is his desire to be a real man and his gentle nature toward women; the name, the stories, the travel exploits, the family history are all lies to impress and hide behind.
You can’t watch the film without describing Brandon as a “he”, because Brandon, in real life, was that good. So is Hilary Swank’s portrayal of him. In fact, it’s stunning: the looks are there; the mannerisms are right on. Total immersion.
It starts out in Brandon’s hometown of Lincoln in 1993. Brandon meets a depressed Candace at a bar and latches on to her instantly with the right words to soothe her. When a fight breaks out over her between some redneck and Brandon, Candace’s friend John comes to the rescue.
Tom, another friend of Candace’s joins the threesome and Brandon is whisked away to Falls City, where they’re from in a spur-of-the-moment decision that sets in motion events that eventually lead to Brandon’s downfall in a most brutal and devastating manner.
The further from Lincoln Brandon goes, the freer he feels to live out his fantasy. He’s accepted as male by all the girls he meets as well as the guys and there is nothing that makes him happier until he is smitten by the dazed and confused Lana.
Although she’s considered John’s girl, Brandon can’t contain himself and becomes increasingly involved. Kind words, a caring disposition and even a token gift: pretty soon he’s got the girl too.
It’s here where all lines of identity and love are blurred and the deeper the relationship gets the scarier the film gets because we see Brandon walking a very thin line and getting in over his head. John and Tom. we discover, are psycho ex-cons.
Brandon’s big mistake was that he lived a few years too soon, in the wrong part of the country and hanged around with “white trash”. These are not people with accepting natures and open minds. There is no room for sexual identity crises or anything else out of the norm. He crossed the line in too many ways and paid for it dearly. Brandon may have finally found what he was looking for – as he reflects on his relationship with Lana, ‘suddenly everything seemed right.’ It was but only for a short time.
Swank’s acting and transformation is nothing short of superb. Her supporting cast is terrific, especially Chloe Sevigny as Lana and Peter Sarsgaard as John.
Lotta says this is an exceptionally well done film involving a complex yet disturbing subject matter Be aware it features a very realistic, brutal rape scene. Directed by Kimberly Peirce.