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'The Costume Party'

By Rusk Baskin
The series is called Transfixed.

I really was.

Costume Party, the latest VOD pairing of Transfixed scenes, presents two narratives focusing on relationships between cisgendered women and trans partners. At first glance, the scenes seem a strange match. The opening segment is a frothy romp of two friends prepping for an upcoming costume party. The second, in contrast, is a serious, reflective story of therapist and patient. They add up to less than 90 minutes, a short running time for a full-length movie, but the complementary nature of the stories mean you never feel short-changed. Indeed, there's enough soul and heft in scene two for several features over.

First things first, though. The movie opens with cheerful music as Kenna James, clad in a winged fairy costume, knocks on the door of friend Emma Rose. They're bound for a Halloween costume party thrown by a college pal, but Emma isn't sure what to wear. Perhaps Kenna can help her select the right outfit? They're both thrilled at the exercise, giggling and bouncing on the tops of their feet as they inspect various possibilities. (I love the pert, cheerful way Emma trots offscreen, as if perpetually about to break into a chorus of "We're off to see the Wizard!")

A see-through lilac number seems a viable choice at first, but Kenna says it's not quite right. When Emma happens up a latex outfit, complete with black horns, Kenna is delighted. Emma has a few possibilities left up her sleeve, though. Perhaps a butterfly-winged getup, similar to Kenna's own, fits the bill? But when Emma struts out wearing nothing at all, Kenna declares it the best look yet. The pace of the scene shifts as this point, moving from sprightly humor to slowly blossoming passion. As their foreplay unfolds, they joke about being late to the costume party. They're clearly relishing the light naughtiness of it all: the tardiness to the party, the cosplay element of their hookup, the pure fun of their spontaneous intimacy. They perform oral on one another, Emma thrusts deep into Kenna, and they lose themselves in the intensity of their climaxes. As the sequence winds down, they find themselves once again joking about the costume party they may or may not be able to attend.

Scene two is the movie's emotional core. We join therapist Casey Calvert as she bounces her pen between her fingers while waiting for client Jean Hollywood. The fidgeting is a nice detail, suggesting that despite her composed exterior, Dr. Calvert might have her own secret undercurrents. Jean enters and begins the session with a soulful discussion of his concerns about life, labels, and his own sexuality. This dialogue sequence extends well beyond the time it would in a normal porn movie, where the action would pivot to sex within just a few minutes.

Thankfully, director Bree Mills lets this section play out as it would in a film drama or stage play. It's like a mini-episode or HBO's In Treatment or a slice of Peter Shaffer's Equus. I was genuinely riveted by Jean's heartfelt reflections on a world that is far too eager to slap an easy label on him and others like him. Indeed, even the label "trans" is a label too far for Jean, who correctly posits that most people can't get past such reductions. "It feels like I don't have a role I know how to play," he says at one point. Casey, the implacable professional, listens with kindness and empathy. As their discussion continues, it becomes obvious there is a growing attraction between the two. This aspect is handled delicately and tastefully, in contrast with the jokey tone it might take in a more conventional "porn therapist" script. At long last, Casey says that they can indeed become intimate, but it will mean the end of their reassuringly familiar therapeutic dynamic. Jean acknowledges this reality and plunges forward. They have passionate sex on the very couch upon which Jean had no doubt mused about so many of his life's highs and lows. (The love they make falls definitively in the former category.)

Baskin's bottom line
It's appropriate that the stars of scene one both wear wings, a traditional symbol of transformation. The movie itself transforms at its midpoint, from a light, entertaining sex romp to an incisive psychological drama. It's as if scene one is the mask, and scene two is the reveal. Both story types are elegant representations of the cis/trans theme at the crux of the Transfixed series. The Costume Party will get your libido going, to be sure, but it'll also get you thinking, too, about its characters and their resonances within our own lives.