Until 2015, Janae Marie Kroczaleski was known to the world as Matt Kroc, the U.S. Marine, bodybuilder and record-breaking male powerlifter. But as Kroc explains in Transformer, a sunny, sympathetic documentary from Michael Del Monte about the transition of Kroc from him to her, that hypermasculinity had been something of a security blanket for a man who never went five minutes in his life without yearning to be someone else. "The truth is it's taking everything i've got as a man to become a woman," Kroc says early in a film that will conclude with him traveling to South Korea for plastic surgery to reshape a face that has appeared on so many muscle magazines.
Shot in 2015, the film finds Kroc splitting time between Matt and Janae and trying to sort out how his athletic life -- the weight training the 40ish man relishes -- will fit into his existence as Janae. In tender family scenes, we see that Kroc's young sons aren't just comfortable with his transition -- they're proud. ("Thanks, guys," Kroc says. "Make me cry and ruin my makeup.") Less uplifting: The cameras capture the first meeting of Janae, in wig and women's clothes, with Kroc's Michigan mother, who speaks with quiet dismay of this for her being something like the death of her son. That's a rare blot on the prevailing good cheer; the film might prove more illuminating and instructive if it examined more reactions to Kroc's flowering from within the lifting world. Overall, though, Del Monte has crafted a warm portrait of the birth of a woman from a man who found that he had even more strength than he ever realized.
Michael Del MonteJanae Marie KroczaleskiMichael Del MonteGravitas Ventures
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