Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Girlfriend Boyfriend

Taiwanese nationalism provides a weird backdrop to a moody romantic triangle that stretches out over three decades.

Aug 2, 2012

-By Daniel Eagan


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1358388-Girlfriend_Boyfriend_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

An attractive cast boosts the otherwise mopey Girlfriend Boyfriend, which drags out a romantic triangle over three decades of Taiwanese politics. Writer-director Ya-Che Yang has mounted an impressive production, but can't sustain a storyline that's both predictable and repetitive. Prospects here look weak.

The liveliest scenes in the film take place in 1985, when high-school classmates Mabel (Lun Mei Gwei), Liam (Joseph Chang) and Aaron (Rhydian Vaughan) rebel against the oppressive discipline hemming in their lives with graffiti, fireworks and punk haircuts. Mabel, whose mother soon abandons her, throws herself at Liam, but he confesses to Aaron that he doesn't love her. Aaron does, but can't get Mabel to commit to him.

In 1990, the country is still under martial law. Liam and Aaron, now college students, take part in campus demonstrations that draw riot police. Liam reveals to Mabel that he is attracted to Aaron. Mabel realizes that Aaron is falling for a wealthy girl with political connections.

By 1997, all three are out of school. Liam is in the midst of an unsatisfying affair with a married man. Mabel pretends that she is happy with her arrangement with Aaron, who is married to a politician's daughter. But when she learns that she is pregnant, Mabel faces tough decisions about her future.

A novelist who has worked extensively in television, Ya-Che Yang understands how minute choices and gestures can doom relationships, and can detail precisely the desire and jealousy that drive Mabel, Liam and Aaron. That doesn't mean the three are fun to hang around with. Withdrawn, self-absorbed, hypersensitive, they spend most of the film drinking and holding grudges.

All three look good even while crying, with Chang perhaps most affecting as a gay man during a time when homosexuality was still illegal. Vaughan can't do much with a role that requires him to be a cad to just about everyone he meets. Forced to wear an unflattering wig later in the film, Lun Mei Gwei is more persuasive as a bouncy but crafty student in her early scenes.

The opening of Girlfriend Boyfriend hews closely to last year's You Are the Apple of My Eye, a dramedy about lovelorn Taiwanese students that was a massive hit throughout Asia. Viewers expecting something along those lines are likely to be disappointed with the worn-out thirty-something clichés Ya-Che Yang ultimately offers.

There's no question that Yang is committed to his material, and long stretches of Girlfriend Boyfriend have the honest, lived-in feel of autobiography. It's too bad the characters can't get past statements like "I'm a miserable mess" or "At least one of us is happy—that's enough." (For the record, the onscreen title is Gf*Bf.)


Film Review: Girlfriend Boyfriend

Taiwanese nationalism provides a weird backdrop to a moody romantic triangle that stretches out over three decades.

Aug 2, 2012

-By Daniel Eagan


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1358388-Girlfriend_Boyfriend_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

An attractive cast boosts the otherwise mopey Girlfriend Boyfriend, which drags out a romantic triangle over three decades of Taiwanese politics. Writer-director Ya-Che Yang has mounted an impressive production, but can't sustain a storyline that's both predictable and repetitive. Prospects here look weak.

The liveliest scenes in the film take place in 1985, when high-school classmates Mabel (Lun Mei Gwei), Liam (Joseph Chang) and Aaron (Rhydian Vaughan) rebel against the oppressive discipline hemming in their lives with graffiti, fireworks and punk haircuts. Mabel, whose mother soon abandons her, throws herself at Liam, but he confesses to Aaron that he doesn't love her. Aaron does, but can't get Mabel to commit to him.

In 1990, the country is still under martial law. Liam and Aaron, now college students, take part in campus demonstrations that draw riot police. Liam reveals to Mabel that he is attracted to Aaron. Mabel realizes that Aaron is falling for a wealthy girl with political connections.

By 1997, all three are out of school. Liam is in the midst of an unsatisfying affair with a married man. Mabel pretends that she is happy with her arrangement with Aaron, who is married to a politician's daughter. But when she learns that she is pregnant, Mabel faces tough decisions about her future.

A novelist who has worked extensively in television, Ya-Che Yang understands how minute choices and gestures can doom relationships, and can detail precisely the desire and jealousy that drive Mabel, Liam and Aaron. That doesn't mean the three are fun to hang around with. Withdrawn, self-absorbed, hypersensitive, they spend most of the film drinking and holding grudges.

All three look good even while crying, with Chang perhaps most affecting as a gay man during a time when homosexuality was still illegal. Vaughan can't do much with a role that requires him to be a cad to just about everyone he meets. Forced to wear an unflattering wig later in the film, Lun Mei Gwei is more persuasive as a bouncy but crafty student in her early scenes.

The opening of Girlfriend Boyfriend hews closely to last year's You Are the Apple of My Eye, a dramedy about lovelorn Taiwanese students that was a massive hit throughout Asia. Viewers expecting something along those lines are likely to be disappointed with the worn-out thirty-something clichés Ya-Che Yang ultimately offers.

There's no question that Yang is committed to his material, and long stretches of Girlfriend Boyfriend have the honest, lived-in feel of autobiography. It's too bad the characters can't get past statements like "I'm a miserable mess" or "At least one of us is happy—that's enough." (For the record, the onscreen title is Gf*Bf.)
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Small Time
Film Review: Small Time

You might not buy a used car from the guys in Small Time, but you will enjoy the movie about their exploits, even their exploitations (of others). More »

Fading Gigolo
Film Review: Fading Gigolo

Some top screen talent gets lost in the silliness surrounding the amorous adventures of an unlikely gigolo and his even more unlikely pimp, with writer/director/actor John Turturro the shtupper “ho” co-starring with Woody Allen as the mercenary shtup-enabler. Yarmulkes off to Turturro’s brave but deeply ill-conceived comedic foray into Brooklyn’s Satmar Hasidic community and other alien territory. More »

A Promise
Film Review: A Promise

Handsomely filmed but wan period romance. More »

Final Member
Film Review: The Final Member

Breezy documentary about the aging owner of a small Icelandic museum dedicated to penises and his quest for one last, coveted exhibit is a charmer, thanks to the warmth and sly sense of humor the protagonist brings to his unusual hobby. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Transcendence
Film Review: Transcendence

Johnny Depp is an idealistic researcher whose consciousness is uploaded into an artificial intelligence in this slick techno-thriller with delusions of seriousness from Christopher Nolan’s cinematographer. More »

Draft Day
Film Review: Draft Day

Pro football manager faces crises on the most important day of his career in a well-tooled vehicle for Kevin Costner. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here