By Owen Gleiberman
October 22, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT
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In Kimberly Peirce’s lyrical and galvanizing true-life drama, Teena Brandon (Hilary Swank), a mysterious vagabond in her early 20s, passes herself off as a young man named Brandon Teena in the blue-collar hinterlands of Nebraska. Teena’s desire to be male, driven as it is by psychosexual identity confusions, is also her way of throwing off the last shackles of American girlhood — an act of reckless self-creation destined to end in darkness. The extraordinary Hilary Swank makes Brandon/Teena, by the end, seem beyond male or female. It’s as if we were simply glimpsing the character’s soul, in all its yearning and conflicted beauty. A

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