Felicity Huffman’s prim “Transamerica” wallflower would be appalled by the glamazon flamboyance demonstrated by her real-life male-to-female counterparts in “Transtasia” — and they would certainly be appalled by her dreary wardrobe. This enjoyable documentary about the “World’s First Most Beautiful Transsexual Pageant” introduces colorful and diverse personalities who easily hold attention, even if pic delivers disappointingly scant backstage drama amidst its focus on individual backstories. Upbeat be-yourself message will further appeal to gay fests, niche broadcasters and, possibly, arthouse distribbers.
Fittingly held in Las Vegas, the event draws contestants from around the country. Some have serious show biz aspirations (finalists are promised employ in the producers’ subsequent Vegas stage revue, glimpsed at the end). Others simply seek the affirmation of being publicly appreciated for their looks — as opposed to being derided as “freaks,” an experience many have had. Protags are candid, sometimes outrageous, often inspiring in their self-determination. But generally well-handled docu misses some payoff when it dumps the entire talent competition into one montage sans live sound. Then the surprising outbreak of sore-loser complaints raises pageant internal-politic issues the film has previously neglected to explore.