Bringing any work of fiction involving a transgender character to the screen these days can often be fraught with consequences that can overshadow the movie itself. Whereas not too long ago Eddie Redmayne received an Oscar nomination for starring in The Danish Girl, and then Jared Leto won an Oscar for playing a trans woman in Dallas Buyers Club. However, the social and cultural climate has now changed and after the success of Daniela Vega in A Fantastic Womon, in particular, there is very visible growing movement demanding that trans actors are cast in trans roles.
Openly gay Matt Bomer has been receiving flack for his portrayal of Frieda purely based on his gender, despite the fact he gives a beautifully nuanced performance of a sex worker in Hollywood who strikes up an unusual relationship with her new neighbor. Early (John Carroll Lynch) is a middle-aged ex Insurance Salesmen from Missipppi who was persuaded to move t LA by Laurette (Maura Tierney) his control-freak sister after he attempted suicide when his wife was killed in a fatal car accident.
Early is a bit of a loner washing down his Zanax with liberal glasses of bourbon to deal with his depression and get through his days. His peace is disturbed one night by what appears to be a lovers quarrel coming from the next door apartment. However no-one responds to his knock on the door, so he retreats back to his waiting bourbon, but the next morning there is a knock on his door.
When Early opens it he is confronted by a very sassy Frieda in clingy bright red dress asking to borrow some sugar. Frieda goes into an automatic flirt mode and with her rapid-fire one-liners catches a bemused Early totally off-guard.
Over the next few weeks, an unexpected and unusual friendship develops between the two when they both start to learn to depend on each other. Early rescues Frieda after she has been badly beaten when a ‘Trick’ turns on her and he lends her money to pay her rent. Frieda, on the other hand, coaxes Early to open up about losing his wife and in one particularly touching scene, she rubs lotion into the scars on his wrists caused by his suicide attempt.
However, when they attempt to move their relationship to another level by throwing a dinner party for Laurette and her family, the whole thing backfires as she screams her unfiltered transphobic abuse about how she perceives the situation, without letting either Early or Frieda getting a word in edgeways.
By now the shy and awkward Early has also befriended the other oddball neighbors in the building and has strangely gradually fit in. It his genuine concern for other people and his steadfast commitment to believing in the best of people that makes his often tempestuous relationship with his sister work so well, and why he eventually will fall in love with Frieda regardless of who she is.
Bomer imbues his portrayal of Frieda with a real sensitivity so we are totally convinced when she sheds her street-walker armor to reveal a vulnerable young woman who could see the attraction of a kind soul such as Early. Lynch, a talented veteran actor is pitch perfect as the seemingly sad sack Early who has more compassion and dimension that anyone had ever given him credit for.
The very entertaining Anything is the directing debut of Timothy McNeil who adapted it from his own stage play, and makes a very worthy contribution to the continuing dialogue about the transgender community, regardless of the casting controversy.