A Leading Man (2013)

Just another audition...

Just another audition…

The Pop Culture Historian returns for the closing night of the Boston Asian American Film Festival, this time purely as a moviegoer. The closer was A Leading Man.

A Leading Man follows GQ Qi (Jack Yang), a struggling actor who starts dating casting director Rachel Cohen (Heather Mazur).

A Leading Man was a movie where I was admittedly unsure what to expect upon reading the synopsis prior to jumping in, kind of like what happened with Chu and Blossom. Initially, we see GQ having to deal with being cast as a racist caricature of a Chinese immigrant in a sitcom while under the thumb of an ignorant director.

It’s no secret that non-white actors have a hard time finding mainstream roles. Despite that, GQ was written to not simply be a pillar of character struggling against the times. A Leading Man was ultimately a study of someone showing his true colors when faced with adversity. We see the choices GQ made when faced with having no money and no prospects. While GQ was ultimately shown to be very hard to like, I can’t say the movie was unrealistic.

In general, A Leading Man was the most realistic movie I have seen in a while. We see an actor struggling to find work. My rule of thumb for testing a romantic relationship is to see what happens when the couple is faced with something along the lines of financial difficulty. Many a divorce have their roots there. This was touched upon in Gone Girl, but A Leading Man was a lot more intimate with GQ’s and Rachel’s relationship and the problems they encountered.

The movie had its moments of lightheartedness too. Director Steven Kung even took some time to make fun of more modern Chinese stereotypes. GQ’s grandmother (Tsai Chin, who was actually a minor Bond girl in You Only Live Twice back in 1967) is convinced GQ’s cousins’ secret to success was holding a Harvard degree; it reminded me of the time I went to Harvard Square this past summer. It was a healthy bit of self-deprecation.

Technically, the movie was top-notch. It’s all the more impressive when you consider this was Steven Kung’s first feature film. The shots were all very nicely put together, some almost reminiscent of David Fincher. The music stayed in the background where it was supposed to. The cinematography was gorgeous. It’s the first movie I’ve seen that made rowdy bars actually look appealing.

What A Leading Man also did that Chu and Blossom didn’t was to really dare to be different. Watch the ending, and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Overall, I would most definitely say I liked A Leading Man a lot more than I liked Chu and Blossom. It was a lot more well-written and professionally made. I would go as far as to say A Leading Man was the best indie film I’ve seen this year, and probably the best one I’ve seen in a long time.

Score: 4/4

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