Transamerica appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. While not excessively problematic, the transfer wasn’t particularly impressive.
Sharpness was a bit erratic. Some edge enhancement appeared, and more than a few shots displayed a moderate sense of ill-definition. The movie normally came across as acceptably distinctive and crisp, but it lacked the consistency I’d expect. I saw no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and source flaws remained minor. A few specks popped up, but otherwise this was a clean print. However, I thought grain seemed awfully heavy through much of the movie.
Transamerica went with a palette that favored natural hues. The DVD replicated the colors well, though they occasionally looked a little thick. Blacks were reasonably dense and deep, while shadows usually appeared fine. A few shots seemed a bit dense, but those weren’t big concerns. Overall, this was an adequate transfer.
I felt the same way about the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Transamerica . I thought this would be nothing more than a quiet, chatty track, and that’s pretty much what I got. We got gentle ambience and nice stereo imaging for the music. The surrounds usually reinforced these elements but didn’t have a whole lot else to do.
Audio quality worked fine. Speech was always natural and concise, and I noticed no edginess or other problems. Music seemed lively and bright. The score offered good clarity and was well reproduced. Effects showed decent definition, though they didn’t broaden out much. Nothing here stood out as memorable, but the material served the movie well.
A moderate mix of extras fills out the DVD. We open with an audio commentary from director Duncan Tucker. He presents a running, screen-specific chat. Tucker tells us about inspirations and influences for the movie, casting, characters, and performances, research, camerawork and shooting 16mm, music and score, budgetary issues, locations, and the movie’s reception.
Overall, Tucker offers a good look at the production. He hits the usual general topics and also gets into interesting details. We get neat notes like how The Lord of the Rings compares to Transamerica and Huffman’s methods for her performance. We even hear about “Andy” the prosthetic penis. The commentary drags at times and doesn’t always scintillate, but there’s more than enough quality information here to make it a good track.
Next we find A Conversation with Duncan Tucker and Felicity Huffman. The pair sit together for this 19-minute and eight-second featurette. They look at why Tucker wanted Huffman for the role and why the part appealed to her. The actress also gets into research and aspects of her performances as well as elements of the production, the other actors, issues shooting on a low budget, and the movie’s reception.
This featurette includes some good insights, especially when Huffman discusses her take on the part. Unfortunately, Tucker and Huffman tend to devote much of their chat to praise for each other, various participants and the project in general. The program includes enough good notes to merit a look, but don’t expect a terrific amount of insight.
A similar piece comes to us via A Conversation with Duncan Tucker and Kevin Zegers. The direct chats with the young actor in this 10-minute and 19-second featurette. They discuss how Zegers got his part, what he liked about the role, impressions of Huffman and her transformation into Bree, facets of Toby, and various acting topics. This “Conversation” resembles its predecessor. It spews out a mix of adequate notes but pours on too much happy talk to become truly satisfying.
A music video for Dolly Parton’s Oscar-nominated tune “Travelin’ Thru” comes next. The song itself is listenable but not special, while the video is a dud. It just mixes shots of Dolly in the studio with movie clips.
We also find a four-minute and 18-second Making the Music Video. We hear from Tucker, Parton and Huffman. They tell us how Parton became part of the production, her approach to the song, and the collaboration between filmmaker and musician. The title of the featurette is misleading, as we don’t learn anything about the music video shoot. That’s fine since it’s such a simple piece. Unfortunately, we don’t get a lot of good details about the tune either, as it mostly sticks with the same pleasantries and praise that mar the two prior programs.
After this we locate a Blooper Reel. The three-minute and 55-second clip mostly presents the usual goofs and silliness. A few minor improvs from Graham Greene make things a little more interesting than normal, though.
Finally, the set includes the theatrical trailer for Transamerica. Ads for The Libertine and Mrs. Henderson Presents open the DVD.
In years to come, Transamerica will be remembered solely for its standout lead performance by Felicity Huffman. Beyond her bold and daring turn, the movie offers a predictable and contrived experience. It entertains to a degree but it never quite coalesces into anything solid. The DVD presents adequate picture and audio as well as some good extras. Rent this one for a look at Huffman’s work.