A committed performance from Elle Fanning as a high school kid born Ramona but identifying as Ray is diced up and short-shrifted in this missed opportunity. The title suggests the chief trouble: Director and co-writer Gaby Dellal's attention is divided among three generations, with Ray's mother (Naomi Watts) and grandmother (Susan Sarandon) commanding most of the screen time as they worry over Ray's urgent wish to receive testosterone treatments. It's not for nothing that generation and generic share a root; the characters scan as vague, of-their-age types, despite having each been dressed up with superficial quirks. But in practice, Watts is playing the overwhelmed Gen X parent, eager to honor her child's choices but broke and living her own mother, while Sarandon is the boomer liberal who sees gender re-assignment as a selfish mistake.
Fanning, meanwhile, exhibits gutsy longing as Ray, but the actress isn't given many scenes to flesh out the character. Instead, Ray exists in wearying montage, feeling just one thing at a time, forever over-signifying millennialhood: he skateboards, he stares moonily into mirrors, and he records and edits confessional-video diary entries. When his grandmother at last comes around and accepts that Ray is a boy rather than a girl, Ray rewards her by slipping headphones over her ears and bumping his latest beats.
Sarandon's Dolly is a sitcom motormouth; Watts is starring in a drama. If you think it's more interesting to watch Sarandon worry about the cleanliness of gas-station bathrooms than to watch Ray try to convince the father he never knew to accept that he's a boy, this is the movie for you.
Gaby DellalElle Fanning, Naomi Watts, Susan Sarandon, Tate Donovan, Maria Dizzia, Sam Trammell, Linda Emond, Tessa AlbertsonNikole Beckwith, Gaby DellalThe Weinstein Company