“3 Generations” gets lost in transition. This lukewarm drama of a transgender teenager who faces family hurdles in trying to undergo hormone replacement therapy seems dated and oddly out of touch from the first frame.
Elle Fanning plays Ray, a 16-year-old who needs written permission from his parents to get the medical treatment that he needs. His mostly supportive mother, Maggie (Naomi Watts), thinks it’s too soon, and his lesbian grandmother, Dolly (Susan Sarandon), suggests that he should just be a lesbian because he likes girls.
None of these characters is particularly well drawn, and Sarandon veers dangerously close to parody, coming off more like a Dubuque ditz than a Brooklyn bohemian. Fanning gives it her best, but she isn’t ultimately convincing, perhaps done in by a script that doesn’t allow her to sufficiently explore Ray’s inner turmoil.
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Watts’ concerned, overwhelmed Maggie comes closer to a real performance, but director Gaby Dellal’s flirtation with slapstick — and later, melodrama — undercuts Watts and the film. Indeed, in the final act, “3 Generations” devolves into a glorified soap opera, and Ray’s struggles become incidental to the shenanigans of the adults.
This is a movie that derives most of its suspense from whether a piece of paper will be signed, not a strong basis for dramatic tension. Here and there we see moments of genuine emotion, but even then, it feels like we’ve been there, done that.
(At the Glenwood Arts and Tivoli.)
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic content, some sexual references and language.