Movie Review - Front Cover

The same week that this film was released theatrically in New York, it was reported that Meng Fanyu, 27, was named the first-ever Mr. Gay China. The coordinators tried to hold the pageant and talent competition in 2010, but it was shut down by Chinese authorities, but this year, the event had no trouble because the LGBT community is gaining acceptance in China. However, in an article by Adam Salandra, some of the other competitors were still afraid to say they're gay to their friends and family. As of 2016, same-sex marriage is illegal in China. Same-sex couples can't adopt children and there are not anti-discrimination laws to protect LGBT people. This past year, TV shows like Fresh Off the Boat and Master of None have addressed the issue of Asian representation, and film news has brought up the issue of Hollywood whitewashing, so this film, which deals with all of those issues, is very timely.

Jake Choi stars as Ryan, a fashion stylist from New York who works with models and actors for high-profile photography shoots in Manhattan that go to magazines, billboards and etc. Ryan is really good at problem-solving, as well as getting clashing personalities and creative egos to work together. As a stylist, he designs or sometimes chooses clothes for people. He constantly has to deal with bigotry in the gay dating world, constant rejection because of his Asian identity, an identity he ignores until his latest assignment.

James Chen co-stars as Ning, an actor born and raised in Beijing who has become really popular in China but is now trying to make a name for himself abroad like in the United States. When he comes to New York, he becomes Ryan's next assignment and he's supposed to let Ryan give him a makeover.

What first puts them at odds is language. Ryan only speaks English. Ning mainly speaks Mandarin. It's revealed later that Ryan's parents speak Cantonese, which he understands but can't speak. Even if he could, Ryan resists. He wants to be totally Americanized and rejects any culture from his parents who are later revealed to be immigrants. He refuses to be what could be considered a stereotype.

He wouldn't be caught dead at anything as stereotypical as an actual and authentic, Chinese restaurant. To him, it would be gauche. Yet, that's exactly where Ning wants his first meeting with Ryan to be. It's funny to see a Chinese person, so out of place in what should be a comfortable environment, an environment that is an expression of your main racial identity.

It's also interesting to see a tug-of-war develop. Ning wants to broaden his appeal, but he doesn't want to become Americanized in the process, which is what Ryan wants to do to him. Therefore, we see this back-and-forth, this push-and-pull between the two, as they stand with polar opposite positions.

Writer-director Ray Yeung comes up with some great, comedic bits in this back-and-forth. It's also an easygoing romance, one that doesn't feel as contrived or forced as so many romances do. We get scenes of two people getting to know each other, paced reasonably well. Whatever jumps or leaps it makes don't seem like overcoming chasms. We're given enough to believe that these two people fall in love.

Like all good narratives, it builds to a dilemma or difficult choice for the characters. The movie perhaps doesn't do a good enough job of establishing the homophobia in or from China. Yet, by the end, one feels the dilemma or difficult choice because it comes out of the genuine performances from Choi and Chen, both with initials JC.

Five Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but contains sexual situations and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 27 mins.

Playing in limited release, thanks to Strand Releasing.
Available on DVD on Oct. 18.

If you like this, check out Ray Yeung's previous film Cut Sleeve Boys (2007).
I also recommend White Frog by Quentin Lee and Eat With Me by David Au.
Also, seek out The Conrad Boys by Justin Lo.

Comments

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  2. This mildly homophobic screenplay is best suited to viewers with a fondness for self-loathing.

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