“What she likes …”: the LGBTQ drama hangs on stereotypes

Jun (Fuju Kamio) is a handsome high school student with a terrible secret: he’s gay and has an affair with a married man. Classmate Kooky Sae (Anna Yamada) has a secret: She’s addicted to the BL (boys’ love) manga, a homoerotic genre aimed at female readers.

These two things are absolutely not the same, but they are treated that way in Shogo Kusano’s “What She Likes …”, a well-meaning but spectacularly deaf drama that shows how traditional Japanese cinema still is. lagging behind in its representation. LGBTQ issues.

Part of the problem, of course, is that so many movies are based on BL manga, an escape genre that’s not the best place to look for realistic portrayals of same-sex relationships. When Jun catches Sae buying a distinctively racy title from a bookstore, he pinches it and laughs at the implausibility of the plots.

What she likes… (Kanojo ga Sukina Mono Wa)
Duration 121 minutes.
Tongue Japanese
Open Display now

Still, “What She Likes…” shares many of the same blockages as recent BL adaptations such as Isao Yukisada’s duds “The Cornered Mouse Dreams of Cheese”.

Jun’s sexuality is touted as a limitless source of shame and self-loathing (the fact that her lover, Makoto, is twice her age doesn’t seem worth mentioning, however). He’s not just in the closet: he’s still tormented with a heteronormative dream of getting married, having children, and dying surrounded by his family, which is one hell of a ambition for a 16-year-old.

This is what causes Jun to start dating Sae, although he knows his best friend, Ryohei (Oshiro Maeda), has a crush on her; as he tells Makoto, in the wittiest line of the film, he “created” a girlfriend. Predictably, he finds that faking a relationship is harder than expected, but that isn’t enough to distract him from his obsession with living a “normal” life.

Kamio is perfectly fine as the tasteless protagonist of the film, but Yamada – who was much better in the recent “Unlock Your Heart” – turns out to be a very effective irritant. By far the most interesting character is Jun’s alpha male classmate Ono (Ryota Miura), who is the one person who doesn’t behave in a predictable way.

The ellipse in the film’s title was probably deemed preferable to using the full name of her source novel, by Naoto Asahara, which translates to “What she likes is Homos, not me”. (This insult does appear several times in the English subtitles, however.) Asahara, who is gay, devotes much of his Twitter feed to discussing the intricacies of BL, and I guess there was a layer of nuance in it. his book which is lost here.

Kusano’s storyline is too compressed to have time to explore the story’s themes and continues to hedge his bets. After Jun is unmasked at school, the film inserts a class discussion in which his classmates insist that they are open-minded about such matters, which just makes it seem like it is. is he who is at fault.

A crucial subplot involving Jun’s online confidant, known only as Mr. Fahrenheit, is so muddled up that it likely could have been cut off entirely. This could have remedied the fact that the movie seems to end three times.

It ends, finally, with the message that people shouldn’t be defined by their sexuality – having spent the previous two hours doing just that. There are virtue signals going on here, but the signals are all wrong.

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