The upside of having to plough through all these really bad movies is that when you come across a decent film you get twice the pleasure. The bar is pretty low. It doesn't have to be a gem, you say to yourself. It just has to have something going for it.
That's the case with Front Cover. There are two lead characters, Ryan and Ning. Ryan is an ABC - American-born Chinese gay man - who works for a fashion magazine called Mаis Oui. His boss assigns him the job of introducing Ning, a well-known actor in China, and booster of all things Chinese, to the American public.
They start out with a series of culture clashes. Ning has a serious case of internalized homophobia; Ryan has an equally serious case of internalized self-loathing about being Chinese.
So far, so bad. We are primed for the plot line about how the two bigots whittle away at each other's prejudices. In incompetent hands, this would be just another stinker waiting to happen.
But it's not a stinker. And it's not a spoiler, I hope, to tell you that they do both become friends and move closer to a happy medium, since that's what you expect will happen. What is surprising, though, is how well writer/director Raymond Yeung Yaw-kae plays out the resolution of the conflicts. Yeung is chief of the Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. He has an MFA from Columbia University School of the Arts. He knows his stuff and what could so easily have been one long cliché from start to finish turns out to be a very engrossing watch.
in English (mostly), Putonghua (that's Mandarin, to you), and Cantonese