Boys who make money by having sex with gay men -- "What's new?" You might say. So it's with delight I report that the new movie Boylets, which chronicles a day in the lives of a group of teenage friends, is a breath of fresh air: a genuinely unflinching, humanistic, dirty, sexy, funny, and sweet picture. It has just about everything I want in a movie, except technical brillo.
The movie's first uncommon move is respect for real people. The boys in Boylets act like actual modern teenagers, not the usual cardboard victims too often carelessly sketched in our movies for some moral agenda. A youthful cast of cute-as-button actors -- Joeffrey Javier, Charles Delgado, Rusty Adonis, and Francis Sienes -- play their parts with lovable insouciance. Their reasons for needing money can range from petty to serious -- to replace the stolen wheel of the tricycle they wish to enter into a drag race, to throw a birthday celebration, to send a sick, stubborn mother to a hospital -- but hovering above everything is the casual acceptance that they just don't have money. They steal cable wires to sell, sometimes getting chased by town police in the process. But the easiest source of cash are the gay patrons, who are often the first to approach them on the street. The boys can drop by their old sponsors too. Here, it's one gay man whose groceries they fetch and house they tidy up. The boys expect to have sex with him, but the jovial guy is glad to just share. It's a nice balancing touch.
The rest of the time we're privy to the quirky negotiating practices between the boys and their customers, sometimes already during foreplay. Pay with softdrinks? How about a case of softdrinks? Often, the movie feels like a great social comedy. If we find entertainment in how rich and poor bounce off each other's lives, such as in British class comedies, why not this one, which incisively, cheekily, demonstrates a "warfare" of age, gender, and benefits. Some odd sexual practices get the movie treatment for the first time, most memorably a riotous powder fetish scene, supposedly requested by one of writer-director-producer Crisaldo Vicente Pablo's fans.
Pablo seems to have found his winning formula. Like Boylets, his two previous features, Quicktrip and Showboyz, are situated in worlds of casual, unromantic sex -- a cruisy movie theater and a macho dancer bar, respectively -- and he casts a keen observer's eye over them. He doesn't balk from detailing the sexual rituals. Then, he threads the narrative with something sweet: an idealistic wide-eyed hero who believes in the changing power of love. It's like the candy in the tangy brew. In Boylets, that sentimental corny center is the friendship between Delgado and Javier. But it's the latter who anchors the drama with his fiery soulfulness.
A few critics will no doubt claw at this film and call it exploitation. With a barely legal cast doing nudity and sex, they certainly wouldn't be so far from wrong. But it's also audacious filmmaking, if a little rough around the edges, a by-product of the economy of style and production. Kudos to the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) for approving this movie without cuts. I wouldn't be surprised if Boylets becomes a guilty pleasure for many, except that we shouldn't be so guilty. When everyone is ready, Boylets will be rightly acknowledged as an unpolished pop commentary of blazing wit and feeling.