Based on actual events. Brandon Teena is the popular new guy in a tiny Nebraska town. He hangs out with the guys, drinking, cussing, and bumper surfing, and he charms the young women, who've never met a more sensitive and considerate young man. Life is good for Brandon, now that he's one of the guys and dating hometown beauty Lana; however, he's forgotten to mention one important detail. It's not that he's wanted in another town for GTA and other assorted crimes, but that Brandon Teena was actually born a woman named Teena Brandon. When his best friends make this discovery, Brandon's life is ripped apart. Written by
Why Can't We Live Together
Written by Timmy Thomas
Performed by Timmy Thomas
Published by Windswept Pacific Songs (BMI)
Courtesy of Rhino Entertainment Company
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Review: I wasn't able to see this film, unfortunately, until after the Oscars when I was able to go back to the U.S. in April of this year. When I had heard that Hilary Swank won the Best Actress Oscar for this film, I had to put it on my must-see list. As it turned out, the film came out on video just three days before I had to go back to my station in Japan. All I really knew about the film was that it was based on a true story about a woman who lived his life and as a man and was brutally raped and murdered in 1993. That's all I knew, and after watching this film I couldn't believe my eyes. Out of all the true stories that Hollywood has put on film, this stands out, mostly because of its disturbingly honest presentation and unforgettable performances that even the real-life characters that there based on even said how real they were. Like the same year's OCTOBER SKY (which got #2 on my Ten Best List) the story is dramatized, filmmaking-wise, but it dare doesn't turn away from being an unforgettable potrayal of a truly unique and unfairly misjudged human being. The story originates in Lincoln, Nebraska, 1993 which is where Brandon Teena came from. We discover early on that Brandon is a female that develops a "sexual identity crisis" and becomes a male, and eventually becomes one of the most desired guys in Nebraska. We also learn that Brandon, under the name of Teena, has been criminally charged several times, most notably for grand theft auto. Moving to Falls City, Brandon strikes up a friendship with circle of aimless residents, including Candice, a single mother who works as a bartender, John Lotter and Tom Nissen, a couple of guys who've served time for various reasons, and finally Lana Tisdel, a girl who Brandon falls in love with. The bulk of the film showcases Brandon and Lana's growing relationship, and first-time co-writer/director Kimberly Pierce handles this so beautifully despite the addition of a graphic sex scene, which the real Lana Tisdel reports never happened. Eventually, Brandon's new friends soon discover he is not who he says he his, and eventually becomes the victim of a hate crime. Pierce makes the story so compelling from the beginning that the film doesn't become a simple cross-dressing tale but of a powerful examination of a human being who was just different and also of the friends that he made who just wouldn't accept him for who he really was (all of them except for Lana, who surprisingly does). The haunting theme "The Bluest Eyes in Texas," sung by Nina Persson and Nathan Larson, also adds perfect punctuation. Still, what really makes this sleeper praiseworthy are the performances, starting with Hilary Swank's moving, perfectly tuned potrayal of Brandon, who recieved the well-deserved Best Actress, as well as a long list of other honors. Chloe Sevigny, who I've fallen in love with in every film I've seen her in (from her breakout role as an AIDS victim in the controversial 1995 film KIDS, to her shy and smart lead character in last year's underrated THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO) shines as Lana, and has won a score of acting honors as well. Peter Sarsgaard and Brendan Sexton III are fine as the antagonists John and Tom, and finally Jeanette Arnette is great in a smallish role as Lana's mother who, of course, turns the other way at her daughter's new boyfriend.
Although some viewers may be turned off at the high volume of profanity and rape sequences, this film should be given a chance if not only for the fact of it being a true story, but also for it's respect to a unique and unfairly misjudged human being who didn't live his life to the fullest.
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