There's not much to say about this film that hasn't been said in the other reviews, but I do have a few extra comments.
Swank's performance really is incredibly brave and convincing. I was surprised not necessarily by how good her performance was, but how brave she was in really throwing herself whole-hog into the role and truly becoming a man. Her performance adds another vast dimension to the movie, particularly as I feel that in her performance alone does the character's motivation come through. You can sense just how exciting it is for her to flirt with becoming free of her gender, even if what she's doing is getting in a bar fight or doing stupid stunts on the back of a pickup. You can sense her euphoria at getting a taste of the experience of being a man. This creates the motivation for her character, as the man she wants to be IS the kind of guy who would get hurt and get into the kind of trouble she does. This is one case where the performance really IS one third of what the film as a whole is and I have no problem with Hilary Swank walking off with the best actress Oscar.
I am surprised that so many people at the time said the film was poorly directed. I think that Pierce has definitely watched her share of David Lynch films and uses what she's learned to cast an air of unreality and mythological significance to the events. I thought the sex scene was particularly good, because you see on Lana's face how Brandon is pleasing her in ways that her other boyfriends couldn't possibly. This is much more subtly done than in other lesbian films, where a character would probably have a line like "well everyone knows that only a woman knows what a woman wants" or something else-- this film is more powerful because it doesn't preach or be too heavy-handed. It is not without viewpoint, but it handles the matter subtly.
It's a little frustrating watching the movie just how stupid Brandon is, but hey, it's a true story and the film makes him out to be stupid and unstable from the start.
I’m gay, and as such I found this film's tagline upon release, "A true story about finding the courage to be yourself," entirely disgusting. This is not about finding the courage to be yourself, it's about messed-up people who are at the mercy of forces within themselves that are beyond their control. It's about people who are so undersocialized that they have no way of knowing how to deal with the emotions that they feel. I am so sick of the whole marketing slant of "Being-gay-is-just-such-a-heartwarming-growing-experience" that I truly want to vomit. I would like to think that someone out there could credit gay people with enough intelligence to accept that not everything about being gay or lesbian is a wonderful, warm, and affirming experience. I also think a tagline like that trivializes the emotions and experiences of the characters in a film like this. Luckily the film itself is free of such sentimentality.