A Poignant Love Story
Early (John Carroll Lynch) is a middle-aged ex-insurance salesmen from Mississippi who was persuaded to move to LA by his sister Laurette (Maura Tierney). Laurette is something of a control-freak and is worried about her brother after he attempted suicide when his wife was killed in a fatal car accident.
Early is a loner who depends on Zanax with a Bourbon chaser in order to deal with his depression and get through his days. One night he is disturbed by yelling coming from the apartment next to his but no one answers the door when he knocks. And so he goes back home. The next morning there is a knock on his door and when Early opens it he sees Freda (Matt Bomer) in a clingy bright red dress asking if she can borrow some sugar. Frieda flirts and catches Early totally off-guard.
Over the next few weeks, an unexpected and unusual friendship develops between the two and they learn to depend on each other. Early rescues Freda after she has been badly beaten by a trick who turns on her and he lends her money to pay her rent. Freda gets 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 try to move their relationship to another level by throwing a dinner party for Laurette and her family, everything backfires and Laurette screams her unfiltered transphobic abuse about how she sees the situation and she does not allow Early or Freda to say a word.
By this point, Early has other friends among the oddball neighbors in the building and has begun to fit in. He shows genuine concern for other people and believes in the best of people. Because of that quality he is able to maintain a relationship with his sister and is able to allow himself to fall in love with Freda.
Bomer’s Freda is a person with real sensitivity and is totally convincing when she reveals that she is a vulnerable young woman who could see the attraction of a kind soul such as Early. Lynch is perfect as the sad sack Early has more compassion and dimension that anyone had ever given him credit for. This is director Timothy McNeil’s directing debut and he also wrote the adaptation of the screenplay from his own stage. The movie continues dialogue about the transgender community even though there are those upset that a transgender actor was not cast as Frieda. Many feel that its time for trans actresses, often confined to sassy supporting parts, to be given their shot. Moreover, casting men in these roles gives a broader misconception that trans women are just men in women’s clothing.
This is a quiet, small-scaled drama about love between strangers and siblings, solidarity between lonely people and the transformative power of kindness. Beautifully matched performances of the two main characters are backed up by a wonderful ensemble and sensitive direction. At first it seems like this is just another story of a straight white man saved by the grace of an oppressed minority but then you realize the fine humor and the depth of feeling in the film.
We meet Early when he is in a grief-induced daze following the death of his wife of 26 years in a car crash. After a suicide attempt, he’s released to the care of his studio exec sister Laurette who brings him to Los Angeles to live with her, husband Ted (Christopher Thornton) and teen son Jack (Tanner Buchanan) at their Brentwood home. Laurette is well intentioned but when she tries to set her brother up with an acquaintance who also recently lost her spouse), Early decides it’s time to find his own place.
The monotony of evenings spent on the couch, bathrobe-clad and bourbon in hand, is broken when Early overhears his neighbor across the hall and a male visitor. Freda is a stunning trans woman in a form-fitting red dress. She’s feisty and great with one-liners and Early invites her inside and soon learns there’s more to her than fierceness and flirty double entendres.
Their strange, restorative, gratifyingly confusing friendship evolves in fits and starts of reciprocal care taking. Early tends to Freda when she comes home beaten up after a rough shift turning tricks on Santa Monica Boulevard. She gets him out of his shell by asking questions about his late wife. He lends her money and helps her break her pill habit. She puts make up concealer on his wrist scars.
They are an odd couple — a middle-aged sad guy with sturdy values and questionable taste in clothing palling and a brash, glamorous trans prostitute. Freda is drawn to Early’s politness and consideration; he’s attracted to her charisma, exoticism and mercurial nature. This is a poignant and well-told love story.