Ali wants to be more feminine. She’s trying to impress her new trans love interest, Dale, who said he prefers “high femme,” but Ali doesn’t know what that means. She wants to feel like a woman, and Dale is just the trans man to do it for her. Syd and Ali go shopping for femme clothes at a vintage store. In the dressing room, Ali pushes up her boobs in a bright red halter and fluffy skirt. She applies bright red lipstick. Gender is a performance.
Flashback to 1994: 13-year-old Ali doesn’t want to wear a stupid dress or even do this whole stupid bat mitzvah. She asks Mort if he believes in God and he is honest with her. He treats her like an adult, which is really sweet to see from father to daughter. “I struggle with it,” he admits. Mort then tells Shelley to cancel the bat mitzvah. Shelley is pissed at “our little heathen.” Mort reminds her that it’s not her bat mitzvah but Shelley says it most certainly is.
I had a bat mitzvah back in the day. At my religious Jewish day school, the bat mitzvah extravagance was a competition between the parents more so than it was about their child reaching adulthood. My bat mitzvah party was fun for me, but maybe also a bit more fun for the adults. (My dad was still drinking at the time and got WASTED.) What kid really cares about a black-tie affair with a bunch of old Jews? The rich kids at my high school held their bar mitzvahs on yachts, in expensive hotel ballrooms, and in private nightclubs. The parties were the talk of school the next day: Who had the coolest party favors? Whose parents skimped on the buffet? Who was spoiled? And worse, who was poor?
The Pfeffermans are well-to-do from what we’ve gathered. They, at least, spent three grand on Ali’s bat mitzvah invitations, which seems about right. My mother took me to a calligrapher for mine to pick out fonts. It was comparable to a wedding. But Ali doesn’t care about that and Shelley wants Mort to intervene. “I want you to be a man,” she says, “and save the goddamn day.” But as we all know now, Mort is not a man.
Tammy is redecorating Casa de Vagina when Sarah walks in. Their custody schedules have finally aligned and they’ve got some alone time coming. In the midst of all the changes to the house, furniture gets moved around and Sarah finds Joshy’s Michael Jackson glove, which he’d cried upon losing years ago. (My own brother, also named Josh, also had a full Michael Jackson outfit when we were kids.) She also finds his pirate treasure box and she asks Tammy not to throw things away without asking her.
On the side of the road, looking like a ’70s streetwalker from a music video, Ali wears red heels and a yellow fringe jacket. Dale pulls up in a dusty truck and simply tells her, “You look good.” They drive a bit and he tells her they’re “almost there, little lady.”
Comically, mountain man Dale actually lives in an old-fashioned cabin, like he is a for-real lumberjack. Inside, he can’t keep his eyes off Ali and she’s way into it. Dale sits on the couch, legs splayed, and opens a beer. Ali tries to sit too and he says sternly, “Nobody said you could sit down.” Ali smirks. She likes feeling like somebody’s woman.
Meanwhile, Josh and Sarah go to a 420 doctor named Dr. Steve (Jason Manzoutkas YAY!). Sarah says she is anxious, but maybe that’s just because Dr. Steve keeps calling her sexy. That seems like more of a Manzoutkas move than a Dr. Steve move, but okay. Sarah smokes weed called Jedi Kush, and Josh warns her it’s stronger than when she was in college. Joshy finally admits he doesn’t want to go to the talent show and Sarah asks, “Are you not okay with Dad?” Did weed suddenly make Sarah care about other people’s feelings? She should always be high.
Dale tells Ali to stop talking, because he wants to look at her. “When you talk to me I want you to say ‘Daddy’ at the end of it every fucking time,” he says. IS IT HOT IN HERE? Ian Motherfuckin’ Harvie. This is fraught with “My actual daddy is trans” intensity on Ali’s end but also, it’s so fucking awesome to see a transman be portrayed as so desirable and sexy. “Let me see those panties. Pull them down to your knees,” he tells a breathless Ali. Guh. Ali nervously replies that she would object to the word “panties” but … “Shut the fuck up,” Dale says. “You talk too much.” There is some fascinating gender dynamics going on in this scene. Dale is playing the dominant, male role and Ali gets to finally be taken seriously while revealing her feminine side.
Having already seen the Silva brothers’ indie Crystal Fairy, I am pretty familiar visually with Gaby Hoffmann’s full bush but Dale is seeing it for the first time and is like, “What the hell?”
Ali doesn’t miss a beat. “Big girls have bush, Daddy,” she responds. But Dale doesn’t like it. He wants to “fucking fix” that. Well, what do you know? You present as a man and you start thinking like a man.
Ali lies with her legs spread open and Dale shaves her pussy, while she checks them out in the reflection of the TV. “Not what I had in mind, but it’s pretty hot,” she quips. Next they go to a sex toy shop and buy a pink “Sparkle Unicorn” dildo. Dale advises her to “let the dick choose you.”
At Josh’s pad, Josh kneels in front of a sitting Raquel by the couch. Josh really likes kneeling in front of women. She puts on her yarmulke and they play a game of “sexy” and “not so sexy.” They kiss and Raquel reaches for his belt. Josh goes soft because of course he does. He is the actual worst. He wants to run. Raquel is worried he’s projecting all his “God shit” on her and won’t be able to get hard. Josh is worried he can’t ever get hard again because his “father is his mother” and he’s freaking out. Raquel encourages Josh to go to his dad’s trans talent show while she stays behind and cooks. They can eat when he gets back.
I am so wary of this Raquel-Josh relationship because I hate when womanizing men on TV and in movies are portrayed as cured by a woman they can’t have sex with. All those pretty girls like Kaya and cool girls like Syd aren’t perfect manic pixie rabbis that will put Josh in his place. I really hope she isn’t here to “fix” him like Dale wanted to “fix” Ali’s bush. Josh is kind of a human pube.
Sarah is smoking fancy weed on a vape before she and Tammy go to Maura’s talent show. Sarah is too high. Josh shows up and is catcalled again by transwomen which is a nice contrast of the LGBT center to real life, where a man like Josh might never have to deal with that kind of street harassment. Ali shows up with Dale, and is like, “Ugh, trans people,” but Dale doesn’t notice and calls them his “peeps.” Josh and Sarah hide in the back and smoke a vape pen. Ali barges in and points out her new lover, bragging that he’s a professor and he’s trans.
“That dude wants to become a woman,” Josh gasps.
“That dude was a woman,” Ali says. Dale has a vagina. Josh’s jaw might unhinge from dropping so hard.
He jokes that 4 out of 5 Pfeffermans now prefer pussy. Is Ali, like, what? Trying to fit in?
Once the talent show starts, Sarah and Tammy are having fun but Josh and Ali are freaking out. First up are Davina and Maura performing a sparkly, glamorous version of “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Goyte and Kimbra in matching black-and-white gowns. It’s an interesting song choice about realizing the person you once knew is long gone. Davina is a better singer, but Maura is clearly giving the performance her all. Jeffrey Tambor does a great job making the scene into “a woman singing” and not drag queen karaoke. Maura is trying.
Josh and Ali crack up, joking that Maura looks “just like Aunt Lily.” Ali and Dale leave, and Ali goes into the bathroom. Josh also leaves in the middle of the performance. Tammy and Sarah fight and then Sarah leaves too. What the fuck, you asshole kids?
In the bathroom, things get hot and heavy again between Ali and Dale but they struggle to open the plastic packaging around the dildo and in the pause as they figure it out, Ali seems really off-put. She’s even more weirded out as they lube it up. Then, the dick slips out of Dale’s hands and onto the floor. Pan to the couple. Pan to the dick. The dick could literally not be further away. It’s an apt visual metaphor.
Maura sees her children are not sitting in their seats. Sarah and Josh argue in the parking lot when he sees parts of the house in the back of Tammy’s truck. Sarah starts laughing at his rage. Josh goes to the house, because he’s pissed Sarah and Tammy redecorated.
Bianca is there and she asks Josh to stay and smoke a bowl with her. Sarah’s been keeping her weed in Josh’s pirate box. He tells Bianca he used to keep dirty pictures in there. Josh and Bianca go swimming and smoke weed. Is he really going to fuck Bianca? Josh is the WORST. At Josh’s, of course, Raquel waits for him with dinner and wine because she is too good for Josh like every other woman in his life, his father included.
Maura is sad after the show. Davina and Shay invite her out but she doesn’t want to go. Davina says she told Maura about how family abandons you when you come out. She chides Maura’s “rude fucking kids.” A lovely, haunting instrumental of “Somebody That I Used to Know” continues to play over the ending scenes.
Tammy and Sarah come back to the house and find Bianca and Josh swimming. They didn’t hook up, but Tammy is livid, and thus begins Tammy vs. Josh, Round 2.
Dale drives Ali back to his house and tells her about the term “chaser,” as in someone who likes trans people because they’re trans. Ali is aghast that Dale would think that applies to her. In anger, Ali starts undoing her femme clothes, throwing the red corset out Dale’s car window.
Maura drives home dejected. Like the dildo far from Dale, Maura’s wig is far from her, impotently on the mannequin head on the seat beside her. It’s all just out of reach. She shows up at Shelley’s front door and Shelley takes her in.
Ali and Dale pull back up at Dale’s and Ali sees the house again, only this time it’s a regular house, not a cabin. She blinks, confused. Dale is like, “This is the same house you saw before,” but even on the inside it looks totally different. In sharp contrast to sitting ruggedly with the beer, Dale gently offers her some tea.
Oh no. Did Ali have a stroke?
- “You’re Middle Earth femme.” —Syd describing Ali
- “It’s on Daddy, Daddy.” —Ali paying for her and Dale’s dildo with her father’s credit card
- “Back to fucking reality, Stonehenge!” —Josh to a very high Sarah