Thursday, June 9, 2022

My Fake Boyfriend: Movie Review

A chaotic gay rom-com about social media and celebrity obsession.
If you’re going to go with a fake boyfriend plot, then you’re going to have to do something different, and My Fake Boyfriend definitely does. First it’s the social media editing on speed, then it’s the very natural inclusivity and fluidity of sexuality and relationships, and then it tackles society’s celebrity obsession and how fake relationships with fake people can have real effects – even positive ones.   2022

Directed by: Rose Troche

Screenplay by: Luke Albright, Greg Boaldin, Joe Wanjai Ross

Starring: Keiynan Lonsdale, Dylan Sprouse, Sarah Hyland, Samer Salem

This movie is a chaotic whirlwind of hyper-stylized social media-driven editing and music, and if you thought Mainstream was bad, you haven’t seen the first 20 minutes of this movie yet. It takes a very overdone plot of creating a fake boyfriend to make a real ex-boyfriend jealous and there are some recycled jokes to go with it, but then it just takes everything further than you would even think possible. And it somehow all works.

Andrew (Keiynan Lonsdale) is in love with Nico an absolutely atrocious human being – all ego and lies and that’s made very clear within the opening minutes. Nothing about this movie is particularly subtle. Jake (Dylan Sprouse) is Andrew’s best friend and hates seeing him going back to Nico day in and day out and getting his heart broken day in and day out. So Jake creates a fake boyfriend named Cristiano Maradona against Andrew’s wishes to make Nico jealous in an effort to end Andrew and Nico once and for all.

The first 30 minutes is fast. It’s full of social media editing and day-time soap opera cinematography and acting. There’s no introduction to characters and just feels like Gen Z or Millennial rom-coms thrown in a blender. It slows down in the second act. Andrew meets the perfect guy, and as Jake is brought in to meet him, the film gives one of the best modern attempts to determine Rafi’s sexuality. The conclusion – they don’t know, and it doesn’t matter. All that matters is Andrew likes Rafi and wants to be with him. Jake has a girlfriend Kelly (Sarah Hyland), a perfect mix between the insane Jake and more even-tempered Andrew. It’s implied but never stated that Jake is bi, which is perfect, because again, not crucial to the plot.

The final act is what really sets this movie apart. It’s no longer a rom-com built on lies and ridiculous contrivances; it’s actually a funny and chaotic treatise on the nature of social media celebrity obsession. Jake’s creation of Cristiano has taken on a life of his own, consuming Jake’s identity, destroying Kelly and Jake’s relationship, destroying Andrew’s life, and indirectly points the camera back at the audience – a fake person is making real money and people are experiencing real emotions because of how the capitalization of celebrity obsession has grown due to social media.

This is a BuzzFeed produced movie (seriously) pointing out the reality that publications like BuzzFeed has created, and then it somehow goes for the happy ending. A part of me wishes it was more nihilistic like Mainstream, but on the other hand, the conclusion fits. The movie actually shows how Andrew has grown as a person and how fake relationships can help foster real relationships. There is a lot more character work going on than first realized. As a teaser tid-bit and trying not to give anything away: that all-white angel funeral is insane and hilarious.

The beginning of My Fake Boyfriend seems very superficial and bad, it’s a tone that’s hard to capture, and while it doesn’t exactly settle down, it does make everything fit. By the end, I thoroughly enjoyed Dylan Sprouse’s Jake. He has an early dig at Riverdale (starring brother Cole Sprouse) and then multiple lines that had me laughing out loud. The next best performance belongs to Karen Robinson in a very different role compared to Schitt’s Creek; here she’s Andrew’s mother and has fallen head over heels in love with Andrew’s fake boyfriend Cristiano.

This movie definitely isn’t for everyone. It has a wild tone and parallels a cliché storyline with a take on the perils of social media to then take a sharp left hand turn over across multiple lanes to be the rom-com it originally set out to be. I’m glad that 2022’s pride month offerings are doing something different, because that should help set this apart.

Similar Titles:

  Mainstream - Loneliness and unrequited love.

  Love, Simon - Heartfelt teen romance to fall for.

  Single All the Way - Funny and sweet.