FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS
What can I say? I’m on a real Lee Je Hoon kick these days.
Seok-i (Lee Je Hoon) visits his boyfriend Min Soo (Seo Ji Hoo) who is on leave from the military. However, his mother also visits and they explain to her that they are ‘just friends’.
The movie is really a 30 minute short rather than a full-length film. The latter half of the video is a behind the scenes look into the making of the film.
I have no words about the first few minutes of the film. It’s so silly and fun. And I just sat there going is that Lee Je Hoon, is that really him? Not only does he look so much skinnier, but his acting and even the tone of his voice is different, that I kept questioning whether that was him. My, my, he looks so grown up in The Front Line but here he’s so youthful and exhuberant.
The director wanted to tell the story of two young, gay men in Korea. One of the most hardest issues with that is that every man must serve about 2 years in the army. Even in the States, being gay in the military is not an easy but when you live in a country where you are required to serve, that adds another kind of pressure.
When we meet Seok-i, he’s on his way to visit his boyfriend but meets a girl on the bus who’s also on her way to meet hers. They exchange pleasantries and even show each other the gifts they’ve prepared for their significant other. It begins to dawn on her that he is gay and suddenly we’ve got this awkward silence.
Later, we learn that her boyfriend admitsto her that he’s gay and Seok-i and her console each other on how the grass might be greener on the other side. The scene is sentimental and funny all at the same time.
Min Soo is a surprise as well. The fact that his mother is nearby and she doesn’t know that he’s gay, he is much bolder out of the two of them. He initiates the skinship and he is the one who gets them to come out.
I’m actually surprised and impressed that the movie is bold enough to show some of the more physical side of their relationship as I felt Korea would be too conservative to accept it. Don’t get me wrong. There was a lot of criticism as some felt that showing a sex scene in the teaser was too provocative. I can’t say if the teaser was too provocative as I only saw the scene within the context of the film. However, the scene seemed raw and real. It worked.
I did get a bit squeamish in the scene where Min Soo’s mom, Min Soo and Seok-i are all sleeping in the same motel room because he missed the last bus and couldn’t find a spare room elsewhere. They wait for his mom to fall asleep and Min Soo turns to Seok-i. I just wanted to shout, ‘Dude, she’s sleeping right there!’ But I get it. It’s young love and it’s all about the immediate and about taking any spare moment they can have with each other.
However, the problem with the film is that it’s too short. We barely get to see the characters waver in their love for each other. I like Seok-i and Min Soo and so I want to know them more. So it feels strictly like a one-act play without much of a climax at the end. Just before I know it, the movie is over and the credits are rolling. And drag queens are singing and dancing to trot music.