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BOOTED OUT of his comfortable suburban house by his father for being gay after being outed by his manipulative stepmother, Ethan Mao, 18, survives on the street as a hustler selling sex to older men. He meets Remigio, 19, a drug dealer and sometime hustler, who befriends Ethan and takes him in. After being tipped off by his younger brother that his family is going on a day trip on Thanksgiving Day, Ethan asks Remigio for a ride to his family house to get some of his belongings and a necklace that belonged to his late mother. Ethan and Remigio break into Ethan's family house, but are caught in the act and believe they have no choice other than to hold his father, stepmother, and bullying stepbrother hostage. In the following increasingly desperate hours, Ethan, his family, and Remigio are forced to confront their unresolved conflicts between each other. As the tension between Ethan and his family escalates, their inner demons and family secrets unravel in this suspenseful drama. Written by
I was a little skeptical about this film before the screening at "The 23rd San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival," because there are so many films have been marketed with buzz words to gain certain crowd of audience. So I am not sure what I would see in a "gay Asian thriller." Well, it turns out, the movie totally exceeded my expectation. It made me laugh, as well as it made me cry.
Eighteen years old Ethan Mao is a hustler because he was kicked out of the house for being gay. He met Remigio on the street and they become good friends. On Thanksgiving Day, they go back to Ethan's house to get his birth mom's necklace while the family is gone. However, Ethan's family returns unexpectedly and the event rolls into a suspensive hostage situation.
It could have been easily a formula movie with cliché dialogue for a setup like that. However, with the direction of Quentin Lee and impressive performance of the casts, the film is very engaging and articulate throughout. It's touching and moving sometimes, with humor and campiness. Quentin Lee didn't make a gay film, nor an Asian film. He made a film about his characters, and Ethan is happened to be gay and Chinese. The more I know about Ethan, the more I sympathize and care about him. I also deeply moved by the friendship and dedication from Remigio toward Ethan. However, the movie never really explained (successfully) why Remigio is so kind to Ethan from day one. Sometimes, the story is not very convincing. For example, why does the necklace has to be placed in a safe deposit box if nobody in the family seem to care about it except Nathan? If I was in a situation like Nathan is, I would try to get away from the house as soon as I can, even that means leaving without the necklace, but Nathan chose otherwise. Fortunately, the film creates a few interesting characters, including Ethan's step mom, who stole so many scenes in the film.
With weakness of the plot, Ethan Mao is a terrific film. Or should I say, a terrific gay Asian film? Nah. Being gay and Asian is not what the movie is about, leave that to Ethan.
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