• by Wes Singleton

3 Generations, C

Rated PG-13, 95 minutes

"3 Generations" is an admirable with a relevant topic and its heart in the right place. The well-acted but unfocused film veers off into an uninteresting subplot that detracts from the issue at hand.

Hoping to get support from his mother Maggie (Naomi Watts) and grandmother Dolly (Susan Sarandon), a New York teen named Ray (Elle Fanning) prepares to transition from female to male.

"3 Generations" is directed by British filmmaker Gaby Dellal and is co-written by Dellal and Nikole Beckwith and features a superb, A-list cast driven by three remarkable actresses: Oscar-winner Sarandon ("The Meddler") as the outspoken lesbian grandmother, Oscar-nominee Watts ("The Impossible") as her torn mother, and Fanning ("20th Century Women"), is a sensitive yet uneven portrait of the issue of transgender, a topic that's at the forefront of society today.

The first act of "3 Generations" is its best, as it deals mostly with the issues facing Ray as he transitions from girl to boy; it becomes more complicated when his mother, believably played by Watts, must hunt down Ray's biological father (Tate Donovan) so they can both sign the papers for Ray to start his transgender therapy. It's here where the film falters and becomes too soapy, spending considerable time on Maggie's backstory: who she slept with, who the father may or may not be and his new family. All of that is rather inconsequential given Ray's plight, who has many more larger and more important issues to deal with.

Also, while Sarandon is likable as the grandmother, her lesbian grandmother role is largely nonessential to the plot, and she's given little to do but give pithy advice like "can't you just be a lesbian?" Had the film focused mainly on Fanning, who's excellent here, and Watts, it would've been a leaner, tighter and much more affecting film. "3 Generations" is relevant to the times, but a more involving story would've helped tremendously.

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