There’s a lot that could go wrong when making a movie like Flawless. It’s a high school coming of age story centered around a trans-woman named Eden, who frequently moves due to the harassment she receives by bullies at whatever high school she’s at for being transgender. Then you have a strong focus on how Eden and her two friends, Tigist and Keshet, want to get plastic surgery to make themselves physically more attractive and become more popular, which is fine and all, but they’re willing to sell their kidneys to do so.
I’m not saying that you can’t make a movie that deals with the unpleasantness of high school from a transgender perspective, but there has to be a certain level of subtlety and grace when approaching it. Flawless is neither subtle nor graceful, instead going all in on tedium and unpleasantness.
Director: Sharon Maymon, Tal Granit
Release Date: April 27, 2019 (Tribeca Film Festival)
The best word to describe Flawless would be elementary. Whenever it tries to execute a difficult and emotionally tricky subject, it does so in the most basic of ways. One blatant example is while everyone else in her high school dresses in uniform, Eden is the only one that dresses differently and differentiates herself from the crowd. I’m in awe of the cleverness on display. In general, whenever there’s an opportunity for Flawless to make a point about life as a trans-woman in high school, it instead wants to focus on completely baffling subplots that don’t go anywhere and distract from the central premise.
For most of the movie, Eden and her friends are preparing to each have their one of their kidneys removed in exchange for each of them getting the plastic surgery procedures of their dreams. In Eden’s case it’s totally understandable. She wants breasts so she can look more feminine, but her two friends are just doing it because they just want to. They have no motivation besides superficial high school drama, which is baffling since early on in the movie it’s made clear that they’re graduating and that high school will just be a blip in their minds. If that’s the case, then why is the main objective becoming beautiful to fit those standards, the standards that the movie admits are irrelevant?
Like Assassination Nation, the movie loses whatever message it was trying to tell, instead getting lost in how horrible teenagers can be because toxic masculinity/social hierarchy/everyone sucks because reasons. Speaking of, this is another movie where a trans-woman is assaulted by high school jocks, as in three guys take her from behind and try to forcibly pull down her pants and take a picture of her penis, because that’s clearly now a miserable trope I guess.
But getting back to the organ donor routine, it’s set up by the sketchiest of sketchy organizers who says that what they’re doing will “get them a place in heaven.” So clearly this is entirely normal and can’t go wrong whatsoever. But by the time everything blows up in our heroine’s faces, there’s still 30 minutes left in the movie, leaving our characters to just spin their wheels and go through the “Liar Revealed” trope to an uncomfortable degree. And the organ harvesting subplot never gets brought up again. Sure, they all get what they want, but it doesn’t change anything between the girls. What changes things is the focus on Eden being outed through the organ harvesters and how unpleasant the movie becomes afterwards. Other than that, the plastic surgery/organ subplot has no bearing on the plot. It doesn’t impact the ending and just serves as a means to an end and a frustrating waste of 50% of the movie.
Technically speaking, the film is competently made, but when I have to say that the film was at least watchable, you know I’m really scraping the bottom of the barrel for compliments. Outside of a really bizarre opening shot where a guy rides a horse through a high school hallway, there were no inventive shots or moments or anything really. The movie just blended together visually into a single, cohesive blob, so I guess I can at least say it was consistently mediocre?
I applaud the fact that Eden is played by actual trans actress Stav Strashko, but I feel that the transgender community deserves better movies about the transgender experience. A film that should have been about trans awareness instead becomes a weird movie that lurches between over-the-top high school bullying and unrealistic organ harvesting. I felt like I wasted my time here and hope I can forget about Flawless sooner rather than later.