Rob Edelman: A “Boy” Meets A “Girl”
BOY MEETS GIRL sounds as if it is the title of a vintage Hollywood love story about, well, a boy and a girl who meet and deal with whatever issues that separate them while in the process of falling in love. Back in the 1930s, this film might have been produced by Warner Bros., and would have paired Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler. Or it might have been made by RKO, and been the name of a Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers musical. Or it could have been an MGM musical starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland.
Well, in 2015, a film titled BOY MEETS GIRL will not necessarily spotlight a boy who was born a boy and a girl who was born a girl. This precisely is the case in BOY MEETS GIRL, a romantic drama recently arrived on DVD, in which the title female character is a transgender.
Exactly one decade ago, Felicity Huffman earned a Best Actress Oscar nomination for playing a pre-operative male-to-female transsexual in TRANSAMERICA. Huffman is of course an actress. In TRANSAMERICA, she might have been described as a woman who was cast as a man playing a woman. But times have changed and Michelle Hendley, the performer who plays the title female character in BOY MEETS GIRL, is herself a trans actress.
The setting of BOY MEETS GIRL is a small town in Kentucky. Hendley plays Ricky, a male-to-female transgender and wannabe fashion designer who, like many young singles, is searching for love, for commitment. Despite her small-town roots, Ricky is not at all isolated. Her best friend is male. They’ve been pals since first grade, and he is fully accepting of her. So are her father and kid brother. But of course, not everyone is so open-minded. For indeed, homophobia still thrives in some circles-- and homophobia inevitably plays a central role in BOY MEETS GIRL. But most significantly, the film follows Ricky’s search for love. It is a desire that is universal, and that is essential to the human condition.
BOY MEETS GIRL is far from a perfect film. At its worst, there are soap opera elements to its storyline as well as some major plot holes. But in its own modest way, this film is empowering and, for this reason, it is worth citing. For one thing, BOY MEETS GIRL serves as a reminder that a film about a transgender does not have to be set either in New York or San Francisco or any other urban locale. Individuals who are “different” live all over.
Plus, as it spotlights Ricky, BOY MEETS GIRL offers commentary on how those around her view her, and feel about her. The point here is that you love someone for who he or she is, and gender or sexual preference are extraneous issues that really do not matter. In a world in which homophobia still rules in some quarters, this is a message that bears repeating, that bears emphasizing.
Finally, without diminishing the performance of Michelle Hendley, who appears throughout and who certainly commands the screen, an actress by the name of Alexandra Turshen plays a supporting role in BOY MEETS GIRL. Her character is Francesca, a young woman who is engaged to a GI fighting in Afghanistan and who willingly becomes friends with Ricky. Turshen lights up the screen whenever she appears. If she is fortunate enough to win the right roles, she just may have quite a career in front of her.
Rob Edelman teaches film history at the University at Albany. He has written several books on film and television, and is an associate editor of Leonard Maltin’s Movie and Video Guide.
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