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MOVIE REVIEW : 'Like a Woman': Romantic Comedy in Different Garb

July 22, 1994|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"Just Like a Woman," a romantic comedy with a decidedly different twist, finds a young American (Adrian Pasdar) rushing home from the London merchant bank where he is working on a half-billion-dollar deal with a Japanese company. Unfortunately, he arrives just in time to witness his wife, who has unexpectedly returned early from a trip with their two small children, throwing a large amount of women's clothing out the master bedroom window.

She won't let him explain, and she very well might not be able to understand if she gave her husband the chance to do so. Naturally, she assumes the clothing belongs to some unknown other woman. The truth is that Pasdar's Gerald is himself the other woman, for he is a transvestite who calls himself Geraldine when he dresses in feminine attire.

In looking for new digs, Gerald has the good fortune to end up at the doorstep of Julie Walters' Monica, a recent divorcee who's just decided to take in some boarders to afford staying in her large and comfortable Edwardian row house. Gerald is such an ideal tenant, thoughtful and considerate, and Monica is such a warm, good-humored woman, that it's not surprising that mutual attraction occurs.

"Just Like a Woman," which was written and produced by Nick Evans and directed by Christopher Monger, is resolutely buoyant. Although not without pathos, it avoids any probing of what may cause transvestism, content to make the point that many transvestites are straight. It does a good, credible job in depicting Gerald gathering strength to confess his predilection--a first for him--to Monica, whose stunned response is laughter, but who proves strong and caring enough to accept Gerald the way he is. She even encourages Gerald to dare to transform himself into Geraldine for a daytime outing, urging him to be less fearful in the guise in which he seems so comfortable.

Having drawn from a true story (based on a book by Monica Jay) up to this point and thereby setting the stage for some serious considerations, the filmmakers nevertheless plunge ahead with a giddy farce plot that involves Gerald's escalating clashes with his bombastic boss (Paul Freeman).

Although "Just Like a Woman" becomes increasingly contrived, it offers splendid performances from its stars. The film itself may proceed gingerly at times but Pasdar, tall and strapping, wisely plays Geraldine with a bold display of confidence. Despite his husky physique and strong jaw, Pasdar manages to be convincingly feminine. As Monica, Walters has never looked so attractive or underplayed so effectively, even though she thrives in the showy parts afforded her in "Educating Rita" and the current "Wedding Gift."

Although "Just Like a Woman" strains a bit in emphasizing what a likable, emphatically masculine guy Gerald is, it is nevertheless a landmark in mainstream movies for its compassionate view of a straight transvestite.

* MPAA rating: Unrated. Times guidelines: It focuses on transvestism and includes adult sexual themes and situations, and some rough language.

'Just Like a Woman'

Julie Walters: Monica

Adrian Pasdar: Gerald

Paul Freeman: Miles Millichamp

Susan Wooldridge: Louisa

Gordon Kennedy: C.J.

A Samuel Goldwyn release of a Goldwyn, Rank Film Distributors and LWT presentation, in association with British Screen, of a Zenith production. Director Christopher Monger. Writer-producer Nick Evans; based on the book "Geraldine" by Monica Jay. Executive producers Archie Tait, Fred Turner, Nick Elliott. Cinematographer Tom Priestley Jr. Editor Nicolas Gaster. Costumes Suzy Peters. Music Michael Storey. Art director Michael White. Set decorator Peter Howitt. Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes.

* In limited release at the NuWilshire, 1314 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, (310) 394-8099, and the Los Feliz 3, 1822 N. Vermont, (213) 664-2169.

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