While 17-year-old actress Elle Fanning is currently getting plenty of praise for playing the role of a girl transitioning to be a boy in the highly anticipated, transgender-focused About Ray, the movie itself doesn’t seem to be hitting the mark with reviewers.
Elle Fanning, along with co-stars Naomi Watts and Susan Sarandon, premiered About Ray, directed by Gaby Dellal, over the weekend at the Toronto International Film Festival, wowing red carpet onlookers as these three would be expected to do. They also used the opportunity to discuss the importance of the movie, raising awareness of transgender issues.
The Guardian’s Benjamin Lee gives About Ray 2 stars out of 5, acknowledging the good work done with the film for trying to bring to light transgender issues. He seemed to feel Elle Fanning did a great job with the character, but the script left something to be desired.
“The potentially fascinating story starts off promisingly with a focused attention to detail with pronoun confusion, public bathroom difficulty and the decision to change schools post-transition all rooting the story in a very real place. But sadly, it falls into a bland soapy routine, giving it the feeling of a TV show you might half-watch while doing something else. The dialogue is often rather ropey (“I’m not having a s**tty day mom, I’m having a s**tty existence!”) and the film struggles with authenticity when trying to convey what it’s like to be young.”
The Hollywood Reporter was equally dissatisfied with the end result, although supportive of how Elle Fanning handled the role she was given and acknowledging that her character, Ray, is a strong feature of the movie, although somewhat overshadowed by the stories of the other characters.
“There’s poignancy in the characterization of a brave individual eager to plunge into a more authentic life. And even after being assaulted and landing a shiner, Fanning underlines that beneath the bruises of experience Ray is driven by hope and a fully-formed sense of himself, irrespective of his current physical limbo. Too bad that moving story gets cluttered up with sugary banalities about the crazy thing we call family.”
Variety magazine was a bit kinder to the Elle Fanning film overall, enjoying the lightness more than other reviewers who felt that such a challenging subject appeared to be handled without the reverence they felt it deserved.
“A crowdpleaser in the purest middlebrow mold, Gaby Dellal’s picture features Elle Fanning as a transgender teenager hoping to begin hormone treatment and start transitioning into a boy, and the film he inhabits proves much lighter and more irreverent than that premise would seem to indicate. Though the results are at times messy, and often veer too far into the standard quirky family-indie formula … Dellal’s likably chaotic direction and a bevy of solid performances make sure the film’s beating heart outweighs most of its contrivances.”
The true test of how Elle Fanning and About Ray will be received comes when the film opens up in theatres on September 18.
[Photo from Getty Images / Mike Windle]