If you follow Facebook, you may have seen a recent dust-up over the movie “Anything” which was the closing feature of the 2018 Film Out San Diego LGBT Film Festival. Controversy centered on the casting of Matt Bomer, a cis-gender man playing the role of a transwoman. The reasoning behind the sentiment went like this: that having a man in a dress supposedly reinforces the attitude that transwomen are playing a part, performing gender – and by implication – they can and often do experience real physical harm. I followed the tempest. Admittedly, I was a bit uncomfortable with the idea of Bomer playing someone like me. Surely the Producers could have found a competent Transwoman for the role, but I tried to maintain the intellectual integrity to reserve judgement until I had seen the picture.
I’m glad I did.
Matt Bomer, who is not transgender, plays the Transwoman who at this stage of her transition is presumed to be pre-surgical and not on (or just beginning) hormones. For most Transwomen, we have all been there. The identity of a girl but the body and skin of a boy. At first, I was worried. But by the end of the movie all I saw was a woman loved by a man.
The film moves from one wrecked character to another. There is Early, who is consumed by grief. The heroin addicts who cling to the edges of life. There is also collection of others, an off-screen mourner singing of his own loss, the transwomen whose only path forward in transition is by way of sex work on Sunset Boulevard, and Early’s workaholic sister who buries herself in a career, in pursuit of fulfillment and meaning.
Part of the film’s appeal is due to the acting chops of Messrs. Bomer (Freda), and John Carroll Lynch (Early) who plays the role of a widower. But it is also due to a crackling good screenplay by Writer/Director Timothy McNeil. The movie is no common relationship story. It is something deeper: a look into the roots of human decency and the capacity for it that resides in us all, no matter our circumstances.
The Film Out committee was lobbied by some in the San Diego area to pull the film from showing. They refused. Judging from the movie’s audience reception it was the right decision. To have yanked the movie from the schedule would have deprived those who, like me, saw only a well done, tightly woven story of love amidst life’s flotsam. In the end the film is an encouraging look at the connection we all have to one another if we will just give ourselves the chance.