Welcome to Queer Fudanshi. Let’s Talk. In this post, we’re going to talk about Front Cover.
Front Cover was an American indie film that came out in 2015 and made its way around the indie circuit before getting a selected theater release in 2016.
The story follows New York fashion designer Ryan (played by Jake Choi) who doesn’t care for his ethnicity at all. He’s embarrassed by his Chinese immigrant family, he only dates white men, and he doesn’t want to do any work involving Chinese culture.
Then, Ryan is forced to work with Chinese actor Ning (played by James Chen). At first, Ryan thinks that Ning is just a homophobic foreigner who’s there to be a bother to him and a living obstacle for his goal of designing the cover of a magazine. But, as the two get to know each other Ryan realizes there more going on with the actor.
This is Front Cover.
Where to Watch:
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The Talk (Non-Spoilers)
While Front Cover at first has the opportunity to discuss topics often ignored by Western media and Hollywood specifically (the intersection of being gay and being Asian, and feeling disconnected from your ethnicity and cultural heritage), the film ultimately squanders it with a so-so presentation.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed watching the film and specifically connected with the main character Ryan, but the film overall wasn’t amazing. It was just ok.
This is a gay film that’s nice to watch when you’re bored and in need of some kind of entertainment but it isn’t something you have to run to watch right now.
The fact that I have nothing else to say, says it all.
The Talk (Spoilers)
If nothing else, I’m happy I saw this film for Ryan.
First off, Jake Choi is hot as all else (and I’ve known that since his one episode in Broad City). Second, his character was compelling and interesting. His dilemma of feeling detached and disgusted by his cultural heritage is a real issue that people have in the real world. Plus, the idea that he only dates a specific race is a problem found often with gay men.
That of course then makes his progression throughout the film that much more rewarding. Having him come to realize that it’s ok to celebrate one’s cultural heritage both personally and professionally was nice (though maybe too predictable).
And maybe what I liked most about the character is that he’s a guy who’s passionate about his career. As I said with the Grey’s Anatomy video, I tend to like stories like that.
As for Ning, he didn’t get my attention as much as Ryan did and his storyline was pretty cliché, but I think actor James Chen worked with what he was given to at least make the character likable and understandable.
Chen gave the character charisma that ultimately made the character worth the airtime to me. I can’t imagine what he would have been like without it.
Ultimately, I feel like the message behind this story is self-love.
Ryan didn’t understand and appreciate his cultural heritage and ethnicity. Once he met Ning and was shown the beauty of Chinese culture (and men), Ryan not only learned to love that but love himself as a part of that.
Ning however sadly is missing a piece of his own self-love. He’s allowed his country’s society and culture to strip him of the ability to not only love other men publicly but to love that aspect of himself both publicly and privately. He’s haunted by his sexuality and the fear of it getting out. That’s why he was so afraid of Ryan at first and amazed of him for being so openly gay.
In that aspect, the ending to Front Cover was bound to happen and this is one of the times that a sad ending didn’t make me sad. In fact, I respect the story for how it ended.
While certainly I was sad for Ryan and I hate that Ning asked him to publicly say, “He’s like a brother to me,” I get why it happened. That said, I love that Ryan learned from his experiences from Ning. Seeing Ryan grow as a person was heartwarming to me and made it all seem worth it.
Front Cover isn’t a favorite of mine, but I am happy that I’ve seen it.
The film’s two leads were charming, the story was so-so but had an ending that felt right, and I feel like it was all worth the watch.