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Normal
Normal
Actors: Richard Bull, Mary Seibel, Danny Goldring, Jessica Lange, Tom Wilkinson
Director: Jane Anderson
Genres: Drama, Television
UR     2003     1hr 50min

Ray and Irma are a devoted couple living a normal life in rural Illinois, until Roy decides that his life must change and confesses to Irma that he's a woman trapped in a man's body. Now Roy must face their friends, his co...  more »

     

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Movie Details

Actors: Richard Bull, Mary Seibel, Danny Goldring, Jessica Lange, Tom Wilkinson
Director: Jane Anderson
Creators: Alar Kivilo, Jane Anderson, Lisa Fruchtman, Cary Brokaw, Lydia Dean Pilcher, Thomas J. Busch
Genres: Drama, Television
Sub-Genres: Love & Romance, All Made-for-TV Movies
Studio: HBO Home Entertainment
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen,Widescreen - Closed-captioned,Dubbed,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 10/07/2003
Original Release Date: 01/01/2003
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2003
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 1hr 50min
Screens: Color,Full Screen,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Languages: English, Spanish, Spanish
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French

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Movie Reviews

Riveting Drama
Martin A Hogan | San Francisco, CA. (Hercules) | 06/14/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Roy (Tom Wilkinson) and Irma (Jessica Lange) are a normal farm family with an estranged son and a teenage daughter. After their 25th wedding anniversary, Roy confesses that he is a woman trapped in a mans body. At this point, I expected things to get absurd, including the predictability that we will see Roy in drag. However, Director/Writer Jane Anderson allows all ssues to come the forefront; family, friends, religion, coworkers and community. What seems a destiny for ruination is full of surprises and Anderson can humble the viewer by showing how anyone can be easily misunderstood. The performances by Wilkinson and especially Lange are nothing short of amazing. The emotions run high, vivid and clear as each person struggles with this abrupt revelation that affects everyone's life. This is a precise study of empathy, understanding, the testing of relationships and most importantly - love."
In Search of Normal
Hikari | Lima, OH USA | 01/09/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)

""Normal" attempts to tackle a highly complex issue in the space of a feature-length movie, and this limitation makes it not a wholly successful effort. The sheer complexity of transgender issues warrants a miniseries treatment such asn HBO did for AIDS in the gay community with "Angels in America", and if "Normal" has a weakness, it's that it tried to cram too much into too brief a space. However, as the first serious dramatic treatment of a transgendered person's unique challenges, "Normal" deserves kudos, not the least for the brave performances from Tom Wilkinson & Jessica Lange. Ms. Lange in particular has a very difficult role, perched on the razor's edge between feelings of love & betrayal, and she captures this inner war brilliantly. Her face reflects all the conflicting emotions of anger, grief, bewilderment & pain, leavened with flashes of wry amusement at the ridiculousness of her situation, with grace & never, ever overacting or seeming to try too hard. Even though Tom Wilkinson's character, Roy, is the one facing the biggest outward changes, Lange reminds us that internal changes can be just as transforming, though not as evident. Her performance is the centerpiece of the film. She has gotten even more luminously beautiful over the years; we reason that if she, as his wife, can't make Roy glad he's a man, then he must really be serious.

As Roy, the catalyst for all this family trauma, Tom Wilkinson has more of a one-note performance; it seems that having made up his mind, despite 50-odd years of cultural conditioning to the contrary, Roy never looks back or even feels a twinge of doubt or regret over what he's about to do. We feel sympathy for Roy, but not nearly as much as we do for his wife, if only because we don't feel we know him as well. Our sympathy springs less from identification with his plight as it does from knowing that Roy could hardly have engineered more difficult circumstances for himself to realize his dream. His determination verges on delusion, such as when he wears perfume and earrings to work, and is surprised that his tough factory-worker colleagues slam his head into a locker. The movie ends just prior to Roy's surgery, but the odds seem stacked against him for making a successful transition; how can he, without therapy, support groups, fashion sense or seemingly any plan in place for 'after'? Does he really suppose that he'll be able to continue his life in all its outward particulars--living in the same house, working at the same job--as he did 'before'? Indeed, he seems aghast that anyone else in his life should have the gall to have a problem adjusting to his new lifestyle. These issues are not addressed satisfactorily; nor is the the problem of Roy's sex life after he becomes Ruth. Despite all of Mr. Wilkinson's best efforts, he remains a very masculine-looking man, with only the very subtlest of feminizing changes to his look or his body language. He radiates sincerety in his belief that he can become feminine, but the rest of us remain doubtful. I would've been tempted to dismiss Mr. Wilkinson's Roy as a completely unrealistic portrayal had I not recently seen a cable documentary about a MTF transsexual very like Roy: a middle-aged, burly man from the heartland with a butch job and strained family relations, whose only concession to femininity prior to his operation was bleaching his longish hair. In all other particulars of dress and manner, he was still extremely masculine. So perhaps Roy isn't as far out of the 'norm' of sexual reassignment seekers as it might seem at first blush.

Roy's family, and his life as a whole seems like a construct of TV Screenwriting 101. He's got two children, a son and a daughter, who function merely as plot conveniences and an audience for Daddy's experiment. The middle-school-aged daughter, who is coping with her own body changes provides a counterpoint to her father's concurrent body issues. To be sure the audience understands this, we are provided helpful shorthand: Patty Ann favors men's shirts, hates wearing bras & stands outside her parents' bedroom saying helpful things like "Is Daddy in drag? Can I see?" While it is not out of the realm of possibility that a teenage daughter might be able to eventually accept a transgendered parent with a minimum of trauma, it is NOT likely that she would be as glib about it as Patty Ann. Would a 13-year-old girl really be swapping makeup and waxing tips around the pool with her erstwhile dad, painting his toenails with easy familiarity like he was some kind of cool life-size Barbie, and not the person who was turning her life upside down and making her an object of ridicule among all her peers? Likewise, the opposition of the older son has the same forced glibness. Would it occur to a young man, no matter how opposed he was to the operation, to call his father a "c***" at Thanksgiving dinner? Perhaps a slew of other pejorative names, but not that one, surely. Nor would this exchange of insults culminating in a broken nose be likely to be the balm that mends the rift in their rocky relationship either, but the movie seems to suggest that after one altercation, things are all better now and the son has come around to the father's point of view. Roy's fellow townspeople, predictably, react to this metamorphosis of Roy's none too favorably. There is the locker incident. Someone writes "You are not normal" in the dirt on his truck. He is given the cold shoulder when he comes to church in a dress. However, Roy gets off very lightly, considering that his story could have an ending like "Boys Don't Cry" or "The Matthew Shepard Story". This movie was afraid to pull those kinds of punches . . .or maybe it just ran out of time.

"Normal" is a good start to a nationwide dialogue about transgendered issues, and helped pave the way for Felicity Huffman's probable Oscar nomination for "Transamerica". Despite its flaws, it depicts a transgendered individual's personal war to achieve what feels "Normal" to him, rather than being just a freak show. Better to be considered a freak show on the the outside than to feel like one on the inside, it seems to say.

"
Memorable performances from Wilkinson and Lange
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 04/30/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

""Normal" is a film where the performances by Tom Wilkinson and Jessica Lange are so much better than the script. This is not to say that the script by writer-director Jane Anderson is inadequate, but rather than Wilkinson and Lange give it a power and grace that transcends what was on the printed page. Wilkinson, a veteran character actor who suddenly seems to be in half the films coming out (Jim Broadhurst is usually in the other half), plays Roy Applewood, who has been married for 25 years to Lange's Irma and who finally reveals his deepest and darkest secret: he feels like a woman trapped in a man's body.To say that this comes as a shock to everyone is an understatement. Roy is the foreman at a plant that manufactures tractors and a pillar of his church. He is also married to Irma, who, like the actress who plays her, has gotten sexier as she has gotten older. When the church throws an anniversary party for the couple Roy kisses his wife and faints. In a counseling session with their pastor (Randall Arney), Roy finally confesses that he is a woman. The fact that Roy says this in such a matter of fact manner, without the slightest trace of any affectation that would suggest being gay, is what makes "Normal" such an offbeat look at a somewhat offbeat subject. This is not a sensationalistic treatment of the transgender topic (remember the lurid film "The Christina Jorgenson Story"?). The script is clearly sympathetic, but also manages to tell the story with a wry sensibility and to reach a level of depth that we usually do not find in such films, which tend to veer towards sensationalism and/or melodrama. This is because despite the fact that Roy starts taking female hormones so that he can grow breasts he still loves his wife. Underneath all the shock and dismay at Roy's transformation there is a love story going on, crystalized when Irma's pastor gives her permission to give up on her marriage and she replies with emotional elegance, "How can I? He is my life."Perhaps it is not realistic that "Normal" has Roy treating his gender reclassification as if it were akin to getting a new haircut: he wears earrings and perfume to the tractor plant and wants to be called Ruth. But Wilkinson brings a sense of dignity to the part that helps carry it off and no doubt Anderson is trying to make a point. The only part that rings false for me is the dramatic exploitation of the Applewood's two children. Two, not just because you get to have one son and one daughter, but two because one will accept their father's change with curiosity while the other goes off the deep end. Of course it is the son (Joe Sikora) in the latter role and when he reads the letter written by his father to a bunch of drunks in a bar, I thought was going way too far (unless he was adopted?). The same holds true for Irma's awkward try at a tryst with Roy's boss (Clancy Brown). Anderson wrote the hysterically funny "The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom" and shows much more restraint overall with "Normal" in dealing with the satirical side of her subject matter this time around. When Irma kicks Roy out of the house, she pointedly tells him he is much too selfish to be anything but a man. Still, we come back to the performances by the two stars. Wilkinson plays this role perfectly straight as if he was changing political affiliation and not gender. In contrast Lange gets to run the gamut of emotions from disbelief and anger to acceptance and love. Wilkinson is so decent and real that you have to admire him and root for him, especially when the alternative is identifying with the less tolerant and understanding members of his family and community. But you also root for Lange to keep her husband.But in the end "Normal" is a love story. If it were about a sex change operation then we would be getting all the nuts and bolts about how that is done. Anderson is not concerned with the mechanics; she cares about the people. In the end, Ruth and Irma care about each other and it is hard for us not to care about them as well."
A quiet powerhouse - Wonderful film
FloozyFlapper1926 | Somewhere in the 20's | 12/21/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I caught this on cable and found myself unable to turn it off. Its the story of a husband and father living in a quiet, rural community who can no longer take living a lie. Roy is a woman living inside a man's body. He realizes he can no longer keep this to himself, confiding in his wife and turning their marriage and the community upside down. When he begins to wear earrings to the factory and singing in the women's choir, the family begins to be quietly isolated. I feel the reason he might have been left alone could have been because of respect for his wife and children. I don't know if that would be the same in real life. I seriously doubt it but even that little bit of what I believe is naive optimism doesn't detract from this film.What is most touching is how the daughter handles it. She instantly embraces her father. Their grown son is less able to deal with it but the scene between father and son is touching. Its Jessica Lange that steals the show as Irma. Her reactions from anger to mourning are always dead on. Wilkinson is also wonderful as the tortured Roy who can see what he's doing to his family but can't stop himself in his search for personal freedom.The scenery in this film is amazing and the music fits each scene. I was really impressed by everything about this film and would recommend it to anyone.5 stars and then some. Normal will stay with you long after the film has ended."