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Writer-director Jane Anderson tries to shoehorn her own play into the TV-tragedy Mold, but it's an awkward fit. As Earlsville, Illinois couple Roy (Tom Wilkinson) and Irma Applewood (Jessica Lange) celebrating 25 years of marriage with a party, Roy suffers a fainting spell. Neither medical professionals nor the Applewoods' pastor, the Reverend Dale Muncie...read more

Reviewed by Robert Pardi
Rating:

Writer-director Jane Anderson tries to shoehorn her own play into the TV-tragedy

Mold, but it's an awkward fit. As Earlsville, Illinois couple Roy (Tom Wilkinson) and Irma Applewood (Jessica Lange) celebrating 25 years of marriage with a party, Roy suffers a fainting spell. Neither medical professionals nor the Applewoods' pastor, the Reverend Dale Muncie (Randall Arney), can root out the cause of Roy's migraines, which are clearly symptomatic of an underlying ailment. Roy finally blurts out that he's a woman trapped in a man's body, his unwavering affection Irma notwithstanding. Irma is staggered, and grapples with emotions that range from incredulity to outrage before she realizes that Roy can't be budged from the life-altering decision to

change his sex. Roy starts undergoing hormone therapy and selfishly involves Irma in all aspects of his re-orientation. He starts wearing perfume and earrings to his job at a farm-equipment factory, and while his sympathetic boss, Frank (Clancy Brown), shifts Roy off the main floor to an office position, unresolved issues remain. Roy's children are divided: Twenty-something Wayne (Joe Sikora) excoriates his father while teenaged Patty Ann (Hayden Panettiere) asks pragmatic questions about Roy’s post-operative lifestyle. Having

separated from her husband, Irma dallies with Frank but doesn't find the relationship fulfilling; when Roy is shunned by his church and roughed up by mystified co-workers, Irma allows Roy to return home. She advises him on make-up and clothes and, instead of choosing a lover with Roy's permission, Irma gravitates back to her husband. As Roy prepares for radical surgery, he and Irma remain a couple; every aspect of their union has changed but the love that proves strong enough to endure against all odds. Though the true story on which Anderson's play and film were based is a fascinating case study, she transformed it into muted and distressingly convention-bound soap opera in which sexual reassignment replaces the usual terminal illness or alcoholism. Although the performances are superb, the film's detachment doesn't suit the bizarre material.

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