Loosely inspired by the life of transsexual Fernanda Arias de Albuqueque,
Princesa focuses on a teenage Brazilian transsexual (Ingrid de Souza) who
harbors a dream of having a sex change operation and finding Mr. Right with
whom to settle down. As the film opens, Fernanda (born Fernando) is on a
train in Milan. Because her passport says she's male but she's clearly not,
she is detained and must perform a sex act on a policeman in order to be
allowed to continue her travels. She arrives in the city and moves in with
her friend Charlo (cabaret artist Johnny Guimares), a drug addict who works
as a prostitute for the transsexual Karin (Lulu Pecorari). Soon Fernanda,
renamed "Princesa," is working the same mean streets in an effort to raise
the money for her operation. (But always dutifully sending some home to
mom back in Brazil.) Karin notices Princesa's entrepreneurial spirit and invites
the new recruit to move in with her as a platonic roommate. Soon, the
newcomer is living in the lap of luxury and on the road to achieving her goal.
Of course the only thing missing is a man. Enter the attractive albeit
married Gianni (Cesare Bocci). Their first encounter, however, doesn't go
smoothly. When Gianni discovers his date isn't 100 percent female, he
freaks and throws Princesa out of his car. Fueled in part by guilt, in part by
his genuine attraction, he returns and makes a striking offer: a dinner date.
Fernanda is soon allowing herself to be swept up in her dreams, convinced
that Gianni will leave his wife. Indeed, he even proposes to pay for the
sex-change operation. Leaving behind her friends (on not the best terms),
Fernanda moves in with Gianni. But as with most people who realize their
dreams, Fernanda comes to see the downside. Things don't exactly go as
she had imagined and a particular crisis arises that tests their relationship.
Although writers Ellis Freeman and Henrique Goldman (who also directed)
used Arias de Albuqueque's memoirs as a jumping off point, there screenplay
is wholly fictional. By concentrating on the search for identity, Freeman and
Goldman hoped to make the material more universal. Since the majority of
the cast consists of non-professionals, the quality of the acting varies wildly.
Ingrid de Souza does a passable job in the demanding title role. In some
scenes, she is forceful, while in others, her bland line delivery undercuts
the sequence's intentions. Bocci, one of the few professionals in the cast,
does a nice turn as a man surprised at the turns his life takes. Mauro Pirovano,
another pro, provides moments of comic relief as a client with a penchant
for talking about his miserable love life.
Princesa combines elements of the Cinderella tale with, of all things,
The Wizard of Oz. Despite venturing to a land of her dreams, Fernanda
learns the lesson that there's no place like home. It's a fascinating, if not
completely successful, examination of a strange, underground world.
MPAA Rating: None
Running time: 94 mins.
|© 2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.