“I Want What I Want” (1972)
A young man hesitatingly sneaks looks at peeks as pretty girls as they pass by, with an uncomfortable longing that will turn out to have less to do with desire with than a desire of the opposite sex. Seldom since Ed Wood’s notorious “Glen or Glenda?” have such mixed signals been so frankly expressed than in John Dexter’s “I Want What I Want”, the film adaptation of Geoff Brown’s novel that, in large part, thankfully foregoes the pitfalls of walking headlong into a potential minefield of demeaning sensationalism about its subject, a fairly notable accomplishment considering its production during a period when the commercial cinema was still having a difficult time dealing with sexuality in a straightforward manner, never mind dealing with the complexities of any variation outside of mainstream experience. (Sadly, decades later, the situation has progressed nary a step, despite the prolific volume of pornographically explicit material available with embarrassing ease, the public has become frightfully comfortable with material demonstrating sex without the slightest evident interest in any mature exploration of sexuality.)
Roy is that young man, a somewhat androgynous fellow whose obvious discomfort in his own gender skin finds an unwanted additional source of suppression through his martinet of a widowed father (Harry Andrews) who unwittingly reinforces Roy’s revulsion of his unwanted sexual identity by using him as a foil in which the father advances his own lascivious designs against women. Discovered wearing his mother’s clothes during one of his father’s assignations, Roy leaves the discomfort of his home in an attempt to isolate himself from his past and create a new identity for himself; Roy becomes Wendy by the intricate process of buying women’s clothing and growing his hair to a fashionable feminine length. The passage of time necessary for this illusionary transition is represented by little vignettes involving Roy’s initially awkward attempts at cosmetic makeovers, nail painting and the wearing of high heels. Eventually satisfied that his cosmetic transformation into Wendy has reached a level with which he might enjoy unsuspected identification as a woman, he/she rents a room where she settles into a welcoming relationship with her landlady (Jill Bennett) and fellow boarders, until a tentative but mutual attraction between Wendy and a man named Frank (Michael Coles) threatens to expose Wendy’s true nature, leading to a major life decision.
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