Directed by Mel Brooks’ son, Nicholas Brooks, Sam tells the story of a sexist womanizer who wakes one day to find he has been turned into a pretty, petite woman with a voice, as he says, like a chipmunk. How will he react? What will life be like for a man like that who suddenly finds himself dealing with a sexist boss, who can’t go to a bar without getting hit on by sleezy guys? Who is now small and pretty and has to look up at just about every adult he meets?
Most interesting to me– is biology destiny? Will a straight man who disrespected women, given a straight woman’s body, find himself thinking like and wanting all the things that straight women want– or at least that society says they should want? That is, will be become all about marriage and babies and wanting to be a wifey and a mommy?
The movie maker put some money and time into the film– it looks good, and features performances by some well-known and accomplished actors such as Morgan Fairchild, Stacey Keach and Brian Batt. Natalie Knepp is excellent as Sam in his female form, being able to play it butch without being cartoony.
The story, both in terms of the plot and tone, very much feels like an old-school Fictionmania story, with a distinct resemblance to a Spell R Us tale, right down to a mysterious wizardly character who turns on the magic to give our misogynistic male his own boobs.
Now, here is the thing. It ends much better than it starts. The early scenes go through beats you would expect in a story of this genre– the sexist male character making derogatory comments about women, hitting on women in the office, mocking his friend who is getting married to a “ball buster” and bonding with his sexist boss over the shared belief that the best part of a woman is her ass. However, much of this early dialogue sounds unnatural, with strange turns of phrases and contrived scenes that all serve a purpose but which often seem forced. I felt as I watched that the actors were struggling with commitment in some of these scenes, as they sounded more like they were reciting lines at a read through.
Then, the change happens. The sex change, that is. The early stages of the change are all you’ve seen it before moments– if you read a lot of this kind of TG Fiction– and they follow a pattern that is familiar in many stories but which have often struck me as a little absurd– these include the character trying to persuade his best bro that he has been turned into a woman, the character just being allowed to show up at his old job by claiming to be his own cousin– because, of course, every business will employ any random woman who comes along as long as she provides no proof she is related to an employee who has mysteriously vanished.
Of course, I understand why these scenes exist, and I am even willing to accept them as part of the genre, but there was not a lot of jazz to the scenes for me. They just felt like perfunctory scenes, and I always want more tension, emotional stakes and even psychological realism.
Once all that is out of the way, though, I found myself liking the movie much more, and I feel it is very much worth watching once we get down to the business of this guy, now a girl, and how he responds to his new sex. After initially dressing in masculine style clothes and doing nothing with his long hair, he decides that in order to be successful in as his new sex, he needs to learn how to dress and act like a girl. Therefore, he hires a coach, Brian Batt, who teaches him to dress and act more ladylike. Sam is clearly terrified of going down this path, even as he needs it, and tries to run away at the last minuite, then gets in a battle of wills with his fem coach, played by Brian Batt. Batt is great, though the character is a stock gay character, and the scenes are fun as we see the sexist male slipping into a leotard, stockings, heels, and learning to do his makeup and to sit and gesture like a woman.
There is a seen where he expresses his bewilderment as his sex change, asking his friend, “How do you think I feel seeing this face in the mirror? Hearing myself talking in this voice?” I would have loved more of that– even in a comedy– but often he seems to be moving through the world as if the change has made very little difference.
The film hits its best moments when it morphs into a romantic comedy, with Sam, now called Samantha, falling in love with his best male friend. He is shocked to realize it, and even makes a booty call, where he confesses that he is having lusty and romantic feelings for his bro, who freaks out at the thought. And once Sam has allowed himself to luxuriate in the male musk of his friend he becomes obsessed with cuddling and then even begins to have a sudden new interest in what it would be like to have a baby. In this film, he not only adapts to society’s expectations by dressing like a woman, but he starts to think and act as a traditional woman as well, experiencing all the needs and feelings.
Given the genre, it will be no surprise that our character is eventually given a choice– to stay as a woman or go back to being a man. I won’t give away the ending. I am glad I watched the film, and there are some fun, interesting scenes. This film falls on the side of biology, suggesting that Sam, given ovaries, will become a straight woman. For him, biology is destiny, and as long as he has a female shape he will be forced to accept a traditional female life of man, marriage and babies. Or maybe he is just fulfilling his own sexist beliefs about what women want?
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