AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL 2013
By Don Simpson | October 25, 2013
Director: Steven Kung
Writer: Steven Kung
Starring: Jack Yang, Heather Mazur, Pat Tsao, Bruno Oliver, Kate Lang Johnson, Raymond Lee, Coby Ryan McLaughlin, Cameron Bender, Loren Lester, Alain Uy, Kenzo Lee, Sam Marra, Tsai Chin, Brooke Newton
GQ (Jack Yang) is really sick and tired of playing the same old offensively exaggerated stereotypes of Chinese characters. When GQ finally stands up to his unabashedly racist director (Bruno Oliver), he is dumped by his agent and finds himself practically blacklisted. So, GQ decides to fight fire with fire. Playing the Hollywood game, GQ preys upon an innocent casting director (Heather Mazur), charming her pants off and convincing her to help propel his acting career forward. Unfortunately, there is still one major hurdle for GQ, his ethnicity. Even in the 21st century, Hollywood studios still do not want to cast a Chinese American actor in a leading role.
While so many independent films have attempted to portray the difficulties of being an aspiring actor in Hollywood in fresh new ways, writer-director Steven Kung’s A Leading Man is the first one that I have seen that turns to focus that well-worn trope on a Chinese American actor. A Leading Man comes from the intelligent and informed perspective of someone who has been there, because despite the absurdities of some of the situations that GQ finds himself, there is no denying that these scenarios are based on the truth. You don’t have to look very far — just turn on your television or pop in a DVD — and you will see one white actor after another monopolizing all of the starring roles, while Chinese actors are still relegated to the same supporting characters over and over again, especially in Hollywood comedies.
A Leading Man is a brutal — yet much needed — reminder of just how racist Hollywood studios still are. Quite necessarily heavy-handed, Kung’s film plays with the same bluntness as GQ’s scathing monologue in the third act of A Leading Man. Kung holds no punches, opting not to soften or sugarcoat the message of A Leading Man.