Completed
Blue
30 people found this review helpful
Feb 16, 2022
Completed 0
Overall 9.0
Story 9.0
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 8.5

"Suffering is the human condition" in art form.

"Moneyboys" is a raw, visually stunning drama that exhibits the gritty and provocative lifestyle of young, gay escorts. While there are some steamy moments, the story focuses less on the "customer service" aspect and more on what motivates these characters despite the risks involved. With an impoverished upbringing and the weight of his family on his shoulders, prostitution is a means of survival for protagonist, Fei.

What we get as viewers is a study on this character. We're taken through a series of experiences and events that make up Fei's life. We witness how the stigma of both his sexuality and profession effects his family life and the mental toll it takes on him. Through Fei's various interactions with other characters, a clear theme rings throughout the film: the sacrifice of one's happiness for the sake of others. Lovers sacrifice themselves for the ones they love, young adults sacrifice themselves to meet family expectations, LGBTQ+ sacrifice themselves to fit the molds of society. When does the cycle of suffering end?
The story finds its anomaly in Fei's childhood friend, Long. Unlike the often numb and apathetic Fei, Long is brimming with life. He sees the perks of being a money boy as a way to live happily for himself and not for the sake of others.

Before I had a grasp on the film's narrative, I was already in awe of its cinematography and editing. The moment I clicked play, I got the feeling I was in for an artistic experience. Atmospheric lighting and color grading sets the dark and solemn tone for the film. Neon colors pop through the screen. There are some close-ups and shaky camera shots that make for intense moments, but you'll mostly see the use of still-camera wide shots. Frame by frame, it appears as though characters are moving through a sequence of modern life art pieces. It doesn't linger on one shot for too long though, especially in the beginning. Scenes are often fleeting, dialogues seem to end just shy of a complete conversation. A stylistic choice that gives the film obscurity and keeps it from dragging, but disappoints story-wise. At times, I was left wishing I knew more about what these characters were thinking and experiencing.

Aside from maybe one actress with a bit part role, all actors were convincing. Lead actor, Kai Ko, did well portraying the emotionally detached Fei. He surfaces the character's vulnerable side in ways that feel both realistic and relatable. The charm and charisma of Bai Yu Fan's Long is definitely one of the film's highlights. There aren't many dramatic acting moments so if you're worried about it being a tearjerker, you're in luck. "Moneyboys" is pulsing with emotion but it isn't necessarily a sad movie, just realistic. It's a bit longer than the average 90 minutes, but very much worth the watch.

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Completed
taiwanfunan
17 people found this review helpful
Nov 22, 2021
Completed 1
Overall 8.0
Story 8.0
Acting/Cast 9.5
Music 9.5
Rewatch Value 9.0

Artsy gay film with somber vibe

I watched this film yesterday at a special Q&A screening in Taipei. I was pretty stoked, since LGBT+ films, especially in Asia, are few and far between. I'm writing this review from the perspective of a gay guy who watches way too much BL, and not an indie film enthusiast, so if you are looking for an in-depth critique of the film, look elsewhere. I'd just like to give a short overview of what I watched to see if you would be interested in giving it a try.

As the first major gay film released in Taiwan since Your Name Engraved, I couldn't help myself from wanting to compare the films. However, they couldn't be more different. Moneyboys is a character study, not a narrative-driven romantic film. Ko does an excellent job as the reserved, emotionally suppressed Fei.

The cinematography was beautiful, and a lot of thought went into the techniques and style of the film. The movie was set in southern China, but filmed in Taiwan, which might be jarring if you have been to Taiwan and recognize some of the filming locations. Additionally, some actors are Chinese, while others are Taiwanese; if you are familiar with Mandarin, you may notice the different dialects of Mandarin between the characters. Some of the mainland accents are faked, while others are real.

Should you watch the film? If you are a BL fan who just wants a cookie-cutter romantic film, then stay away. But if you enjoy artsy films, then I would definitely recommend it. I'm guessing people's opinions of this film will be pretty polarized. But it's worth giving it a shot. Personally, I felt like something was missing from the film, as many of the themes (rural vs urban life, Chinese family values, guilt and shame) are trite. But the lead actor's performance and his ability to make me sympathize with his character were enough to leave a positive opinion in my mind the next day.

I'm not sure if and when this will be released in other countries, but I think because it's a co-production with Austria, it should at least be shown in some European countries. Maybe it'll even appear on Netflix eventually. If you have any other questions about the film feel free to ask.

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Completed
Naomi Necro
6 people found this review helpful
Jun 21, 2022
Completed 0
Overall 8.0
Story 8.0
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 8.5
Rewatch Value 8.0

Voyeuristic lens into the enduring machinations of a male escort

*Beautiful wide-lens cinematography that captures the room and the emotions of each character while retaining a sense of obscurity and a voyeuristic quality as we're never allowed to see too closely.

*The explicit scenes are not gratuitous and help drive the narrative

*The acting from everyone, especially Kai Ko, was deeply effective.

*Cons: Although I'm sure they served an artistic purpose, I thought the karaoke scene at the beginning and the dance scene at the end was uncomfortably long. It adds to the voyeuristic quality of the film, for sure, but I kept hoping it would end because I felt like it took away from being able to add more to other scenes. I also wish we were given just a little more insight into our main character. I wanted to know more about him, what he was feeling, and what ultimately happens to him. Some things are better left unsaid and to our imagination, so I'll have to give the writers extra credit for making me sad I couldn't get just a little more.

Definitely worth a higher rating on MDL. It was an artsy piece that I enjoyed watching.

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Completed
Tonny
3 people found this review helpful
Jul 19, 2023
Completed 0
Overall 9.0
Story 8.5
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 9.0
Rewatch Value 8.5
This review may contain spoilers

Moneyboys with money but no longer boys

My thoughts about the main three characters:

Fei: He was new to the work; Max helped him. In the process, they fell in love. I don't blame Fei for running, he didn't ask Max to beat him up. I would flee too if the police were looking for me. Then he fell for Long. Long is the innocence he lost. He is everything he could never be, so at first he tried to resist him. Even hate him, I guess. But Long broke through his wall. When Max came back, it wasn't love but guilt he was feeling. He is doing everything out of guilt, which is holding him back. He will never be truly happy in life, and he knows it. The only thing he can do is remember the time with Long.

Max: The perfect moneyboy who fell for Fei and let his emotion control him. If he had planned it, he could get away without messing up everything. I'm sure he regrets losing Fei for this. Him getting married and having 3 babies shows how he is doing. I am not saying anything about his sexual preference, he can be bi, pan, or just gay. But he does not love his wife. He still loves Fei, but it won't be fair to him if Fei stays with him out of guilt, and he knows this.

Long: Long is like a free bird. I feel like he is the type of character who is pure innocence. He will never be corrupt. He will show you his raw emotions. But you cannot keep him in a cage. He will fly. I felt like Long liked Fei even before he left the village. He went to find him in two cities. But he is not willing to be someone's second choice. That's why he left.

Max's wife is ...creepy.

Having an open ending is sometimes to bad. You can only imagine the choices they would make. Will Long return? Will Fei go to find Long? Or will Max and Fei get together? We can only guess.

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Completed
Xavier
2 people found this review helpful
Jul 18, 2022
Completed 0
Overall 8.0
Story 9.0
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 8.0
Rewatch Value 6.0
This review may contain spoilers

Humanely queer

For a debut film for C.B. Yi, it's really a good film. Mood-setting visual, check. Music, check. ("Hello Anxiety" by Phum Viphurit!!) All the sexy boys, check. Clearly not the best Asian LGBTQ+ film of all time, but still a good one to watch.

The visual, story, and pace can be considered too generic and straight-up mimicking art films. But I still appreciate that they made it smooth and moderately paced, not putting too much cryptic cues, good enough not to induce yawn.

Now the story: The more you watch, the more you feel sad about Fei. He can stand with the daily life struggle of a sex worker, rejection of a family, criminalization from the largest mafia organization in the world, and even a close friend straight up admitting that he loves him.

But in the end, he can't stand the feeling of loneliness, the loneliness that is killing him slowly, anyway.

The story itself is very humane (and queer). I love it.

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Completed
ruru
2 people found this review helpful
Jul 16, 2023
Completed 0
Overall 8.0
Story 6.5
Acting/Cast 7.0
Music 6.0
Rewatch Value 6.0

Yes and no.

I have second thoughts about this film, even though it has a great intention while telling a story, it has some plot holes ( I was left with so many questions).

Sometimes I felt lost while watching it, ‘cause we had a plot that was just put there, and we had to listen without knowing the full context, like why?
I know sometimes we do not need the full context, but come on, give me something.

However, I enjoyed this film, it was raw, and it gave me a reality check. I recommend it and will watch it again.

It showed us how badly someone can be treated in those cultures, I was so sad for them, they deserved better. They deserved better circumstances, a second chance perhaps.

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Completed
Kimiyoii
2 people found this review helpful
Jan 30, 2023
Completed 0
Overall 9.0
Story 8.5
Acting/Cast 9.5
Music 9.5
Rewatch Value 8.0
This review may contain spoilers

Very sad story that could have been happier

First of all, I really liked it. It was dark but filled with moments that tampered this darkness. The reason why it's still a very sad story is due the MC's inability to... well I don't know if I should say "accept" or "reach" happiness. Of course, his situation is terrible, but what's truly surprising is that characters around him which are in similar or worst situation do manage to find happiness, in one way or another. So, I would say that this movie is also interesting due to its portrayal of depression (if that's what it is).
The best scene of the movie is definitely the dancing scene, it made me very emotional, the acting was on point as the way the MC's eyes constantly follow Long's dancing but become warmer and warmer with time. It felt like he was falling in love in front of our eyes.
I was also impressed by the scene of the dinner he has with his family: though it was awful, I liked how it made me despise the uncle. After witnessing all that Fei went through to make money for his family, I felt like punching the uncle through the screen.
Overall, it's definitely not a happy movie, but that is mostly due to Fei's relation to happiness, it almost feels like he doesn't allow himself to feel it: like he doesn't deserve to. I wish the ending would have been more hopeful, as it feels that Long could really be the answer to Fei's struggle. But, as Long said himself, his love was not truly love. Maybe Fei doesn't know how to love properly anymore.

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Completed
EarlofCruiseGW
1 people found this review helpful
Sep 4, 2023
Completed 0
Overall 9.0
Story 9.0
Acting/Cast 8.5
Music 9.0
Rewatch Value 10
This review may contain spoilers

Hidden Truth

Originally, Yi wanted to shoot the film in the PRC. In mainland China, homosexuality is not forbidden, but it is treated as taboo. However, after the temporary disappearance of actress Fan Bingbing, there was an appeal from the film bureau not to make certain films. For this reason, Yi rescheduled seven months before shooting began and decided to move to Taipei, Taiwan. A two-year casting process in China had preceded, but actors had dropped out after accepting commitments. According to Yi, it would not have been possible to engage Taiwanese actors because the audience would have noticed the language difference immediately. So for pragmatic reasons, among others, the Chinese actress Zeng Meihuizi took on three roles in Yi's film.

Filming took place over 39 shooting days from May to July 2019 in Taiwan. The production was supported by the Austrian Film Institute, the Vienna Film Fund, Eurimages, Creative Europe MEDIA, Aides aux cinémas du monde, Taipei Film Commission, Belgian Tax Shelter, the Ministry of Culture of Taiwan and Totem. The Austrian Broadcasting Corporation and Arte were also involved.

The film is about the tension between traditional life with children and starting a family and free life in the anonymity of a city. He found a beautiful, unobtrusive aesthetic form for this tension. In the film, one can clearly see how quickly progress in China has torn the generations apart.

The film is visually appealing and cleverly deals critically with the issues of prostitution and homosexuality. However, a few lengths and many plot lines that go nowhere ensure that the hoped-for social criticism and tragedy of the film fizzle out.

The film's clever use of colour should be emphasised. Different spaces and places (e.g. the village, the hip spaces of the big city) are characterised by colours in the film, which also mix again and again in individual scenes. The director is particularly interested in the colour gradients, the "movements" between the different spaces. The complexity of the film saves it from obvious genre formulas, the "sense of images" protects it from narrative conventions. In the process, the director's visual interest in the cinematic world creates a film that is as consistently ordered as it is emotionally stirring, penetrating the rigid structures of world cinema.

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Completed
cheshire
0 people found this review helpful
Feb 9, 2024
Completed 0
Overall 7.0
Story 7.0
Acting/Cast 8.5
Music 4.0
Rewatch Value 3.0

A 'moneyboy' with no love to give, and to give no love to.

This was very artsy. The way it was filmed, shot, directed-- it's like one of those indie films you'll fall alseep to if you aren't paying enough attention.

The story isn't anything extraordinary, but it sheds light on the lives of those who are engaged in sex work in a conservative society such as Asian countries-- precisely the life of the main protagonist of this film, who is a character I never truly understood or found myself rooting for. He's self-centered, pushes away or cuts off people who genuinely cares about him, and doesn't know how to appreciate the small but positive aspects of life. You want to care for him since his family situation is sad and frustrating, but at the same time, you can't find the urge to. You can't tell how he feels, if he cares or if he... well, anything. It's not the acting, because I thought the few actors this film had are great, but rather how the ML is written to be. He was, in conclusion, a snob-- and what's the good thing? This film is aware that the main protagonist is a snob.

One thing that bothered me, since I'm a pretty regular film person, is how this movie was entirely filmed. There are many gorgeous artistic shots (which I couldn't screenshot at all because I had to watch it in 360p lmao), but the single-camera stiff distant shots at a constant began to get on my nerves at one point. Besides that, they only ever play a single The Shining-esque background music every three scenes which suddenly makes you wonder "is there gonna be a jumpscare soon?" just for you to remember that you're not watching a horror film. The only reason I didn't rate this any lower than 7, though I could have based on how much I was entertained by this, is the club dancing scene because it made things feel alive for once.

Do I recommend this? Sure. At least it's not another depressing LGBTQ film where someone dies at the end or the couple can't get together. I appreciate their attempt at a different angle for LGBTQ films.

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Completed
HappyRabbit
0 people found this review helpful
Aug 13, 2023
Completed 0
Overall 9.0
Story 8.5
Acting/Cast 9.0
Music 10
Rewatch Value 8.5

Pure art

My favorite part of the movie was definitely the top-notch cinematography. Each and every clip of this film could pass as a photograph. All the shots were absolutely stunning and well thought through.
The direction was great and so was the acting.
Loved the scenery and layout of every scene.
The music is great, and matched the vibe of the movie.
I liked the plot, but it could have been better. There’s quite a bit of stuff happening in the movie, so certain things are not that clear. For example, the relationship between Xiangdong and the aggressive guy at his wedding. I also had trouble seeing the red string that was supposed to tie the whole movie together. I couldn't really see the guilt that Liang Fei was carrying from abandoning his lover. This only showed at the end of the movie.
Despite the sort-of-lacking plot, I still consider this movie a brilliant work of art.

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Moneyboys (2021) poster

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