Ryan Fu is a highly creative celebrity stylist in N.Y. who measures his success in the number of magazine covers that his clients are featured on. An immaculate dresser himself, he leads a very happy life as a gay fashionista hanging out with a very chic fast crowd. One day his Boss announces to Ryan that he has a new client named Ning who is one of the hottest movie stars back in China and whose career is about to launched in the US. Ning has already been promised an cover story interview and he has specifically requested a Chinese stylist to help advise him.
This doesn’t sit too well with Ryan who fits the bill but has a very snobbish attitude about his own American/Chinese heritage. He is quite appalled at his first meeting with Ning which is at a traditional restaurant in Chinatown where he is gorging himself on copious dishes surrounded by a gaggle of hangers-on who he has brought with him from Beijing. To make matters worse Ning insists that the fastidious diet-conscious Ryan who avoids carbs like the plaque, sits down and eats with them.
The meeting is a disaster, as is the one the next day when they site down to discuss which stylish clothes Ning should wear and his provincial badly-dressed gang insist on giving their universal disapproval to every single suggestion Ryan makes. It’s enough to get Ryan fired from the job, but he makes one last effort and goes to Ning’s hotel late at night to talk to him one-to-one to convince him that if he gave him a real chance, then he would get exactly the right look to win over fans in the US too.
Without the entourage around the two men start to bond on both a professional and personal level and Ryan discovers that Ning’s initial resistance to all his suggestions were based on the fact that he wasn’t comfortable working with an openly gay man like this. He kept professing his heterosexuality and how much missed his girlfriend back home, but not enough to stop him eventually making a pass at Ryan and ending up in his bed.
Next morning both men are woken by a surprise early morning visit by Ryan’s parents who are delighted to discover that Ning had been an overnight guest, and they quickly assume that he is the boyfriend that they had been hoping their son would finally find and settle down with. Ning is happy to go along with their assumptions and if truth be told really enjoys himself when the mother insists that both Y&yXMVgOSL4(H$&H^D6Ds(_harp^(W^vtfzOpdP9evlOo3pFkrof them tag along for the day.
When they are out together, they are spotted by a paparazzi photographer takes an intimate shot of Ryan and Ning which then appears in a popular Chinese gossip magazine effectively outing the closeted movie star. A rather distraught Ning pleads with Ryan to publicly deny that they have a relationship to help save his career, but by this time both men and more than smitten with each other, so it’s a tough call to make.
This second feature written and directed by Hong Kong native filmmaker Ray Yeung is a very perceptive take on the clash of two very different versions on what was once the same culture, and their opposing views on sexuality and self-expression. It’s one that Yeung is well qualified to comment on having been educated in both London and in N.Y. before returning to his own roots. His experience has served him well because although he ensures that both leads are strong-minded individuals with their very different game plans, he very carefully avoids allowing either to lapse into being cliched stereotypes. It’s a very fresh and convincing plot, extremely well written, that has some very neat twists, that allow these two strangers enjoy some very unexpected happiness in their touching and tender romance.
It helps that both talented (and extremely handsome) lead actors giving very moving and powerful performances, have such a very obvious chemistry together. James Chen playing Ning is a very experienced American actor best known for his role in TV’s Law & Order SVU, and Jake Choi as Ryan is a well-known NY based actor although he is in fact a Korean American (hence the line from Ning "you don’t look like Chinese!" was actually based part in truth).
The number of LGBT movies with Asian based story lines that get distributed on a global basis add up to no more than a mere handful, which is a great shame. When they are as good as Front Cover, and have a ‘message’ that audiences will not just relate too but really enjoy too, they so deserve to be seen.
Watch The Skinny now on GagaOOLala.
This article originally appeared on queerguru.