Suzy Amis, Bo Hopkins, Ian McKellen, David Chung

A young woman, weighed down by long skirls and a heavy valise, trudges along a country road in the opening scene of this provocative, gender-bending Western. "Where are you headed?" a passerby asks her.

"Haven't decided," she tells him. The woman (Amis) soon decides on her destination: manhood. Booted out by her rich family back East after a brief affair results in a baby (she entrusts the infant to a sister), she goes West. She buys britches, hacks off her hair (shorn, Amis looks startlingly like Eric Stotlz' sissy twin), coarsens her table manners and, presto-change-o, Josephine becomes Jo. Her decision is made after she is nearly raped on the road, but it also reflects the limited options (basically wifehood or whoredom) open to women in the mid-1800s.

Using this sex-change plot, director-screenwriter Maggie Greenwald has made a thoughtful, often funny film that slyly re-examines the basic tenets—who were all those quiet strangers?—of Westerns. Amis, previously a standout in supporting roles in such films as Rich in Love and Rocket Gibraltar, easily carries this emotionally complex movie.(R)

  • Contributors:
  • Leah Rozen,
  • Ralph Novak.