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Moneyboys taiwanese drama review
29 people found this review helpful
by Blue
Feb 16, 2022
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 for the ones they love, young adults sacrifice to meet family expectations, LGBTQ+ sacrifice 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 active 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 Bai Yu Fan brought to the screen as 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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