“Boy Meets Girl,” or — as the subtitle should say, “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Being Transgender” — is a romantic comedy that’s so progressive it hurts. Placing sex and gender identity at the center of almost every conversation, the writer and director, Eric Schaeffer, is so keen to demythologize that the film’s potentially most affecting moments are too often smothered by the hackneyed characters and setups that surround them.
Enlightenment needs a much lighter touch. As if instinctively understanding this, the transgender actress Michelle Hendley plays Ricky, a young preoperative trans woman in rural Kentucky, with welcome reserve. Her unforced performance only highlights the trying-too-hard excesses of her co-stars, whether it’s the naïvely bicurious Southern belle (Alexandra Turshen), the best friend and good ol’ boy (Michael Welch) or the bigoted Marine (Michael Galante) spewing homophobia from Afghanistan. Either openly or secretly, they’re all really into Ricky; they may be confused about which bathroom she uses, but they know she’s the hottest girl in town.
Stuffed with earnest speeches and “Did that feel good?” post-mortems — and a cloying montage at the end — “Boy Meets Girl” can feel like a too-pointed, simplistic lesson in acceptance. Even so, Mr. Schaeffer doesn’t shy from the darkness at the edge of difference, using the social-media confessions of Ricky’s younger self to deepen the narrative and deliver his most critical message: That no matter what our equipment says, we don’t have to agree.
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