Originally titled “About Ray,” now known as “3 Generations” (TWC), Gaby Dellal’s unsatisfactory trans family drama is finally being released domestically after being shelved for quite a while. It’s a pity, too, because the combination of the cast and the storyline should have resulted in a better movie than what’s onscreen.
Since she was young, every year that Ramona (Elle Fanning) blew out the candles on her birthday cake she wished she was a boy. Now 16, Ray’s (as Ramona prefers to be called) friends thought it was so cool, that he was raised in New York by his mother Maggie (Naomi Watts), his lesbian maternal grandmother Dolly (Susan Sarandon) and Dolly’s girlfriend Franny (Linda Edmond); but all he ever wanted was to be “normal”. To Ray, that meant being male, not female.
The central conflict of “3 Generations” revolves around the parental consent form that Maggie needs to sign for Ray to proceed with his transition. Not only does Maggie need to sign it, but so does her resistant ex-husband Craig (Tate Donovan), Ray’s father. Craig’s not the only one having trouble with the process. Old-school lesbian Dolly is also struggling with Ray’s choice to transition. At one point, she asks why Ray can’t just be a lesbian. As Dolly puts it, being “someone who has worked her whole life so that women can have control over their own bodies,” she’s having a hard time calling her granddaughter “he”.
There is, of course, much more involved with Ray’s transition, including changing schools, using restaurant bathrooms instead of the ones at school, and avoiding bullies. Ray’s desire to “stop feeling like someone in between” is the film’s most potent and revelatory message.
Unfortunately, it appears that co-screenwriters Dellal and Nikole Beckwith don’t think Ray is an interesting enough subject to sustain the focus. They give the far less interesting Maggie unnecessary and unbelievable crises, including one involving Ray’s paternity. “3 Generations,” unlike the more thoughtful and thought-provoking 2005 film “Transamerica,” is shockingly self-indulgent and disappointing. Special features on the Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD include deleted and extended scenes. Rating: D