Kept Boy ***
Starring: Jon Paul Phillips, Thure Riefenstein, Greg Audino, Diosiq Burné, John-Michael Carlton, Toni Cohen
Director: George Bamber
In 2017, society values wealth and power more than it ever has before. Materialism and celebrity is now a bigger goal than idealistic love, so with everyone yearning to be a Kardashian or to marry into the money, can someone who is kept as a trophy boyfriend actually fall for his wealthy benefactor? In American Drama Kept Boy, we explore the muggy grey area where love and wealth overlap.
Dennis (Phillips) is a "kept" boy, whose wealthy partner Farleigh (Riefenstein) has looked after him for years. But many years on, Dennis is paranoid that his boyfriend is losing interest and shopping around for a younger model. And with him taking the muscle-bound poolboy Jasper (Audino) under his wing, there appears to be more to his suspicions than just paranoia. Slowly but surely, their lives become more and more embroiled with Jasper’s, while Dennis tries to understand the feelings he has both for Farleigh and Jasper, while his friends in similar relationships are there solely for the money.
The first half of this film plays out like a comedy, in which we follow Dennis as he tries to worm his way out of working and convince Farleigh he is pulling his weight. Initially, Dennis is delightfully unlikeable, being far more concerned with his position than in being true to himself. But when his insecurities begin to surface, we see that he is just as vulnerable as anyone else, especially as he realises that as his looks fade, he has nothing to fall back on whatsoever. Cue the violins.
This is a film that explores the temporal nature of beauty, looking at those who exploit it and those who consume it. The film aims more derision at the Farleigh characters than it does toward those they are keeping, because although the latter are using their looks to get what they want, their benefactors are depicted as fickle creatures who seem unable to see beyond the glossy façades of their shiny new toys. By continuing their cyclical consumption of youth, they are shown to be the ones exploiting, rather than those who are happy to take their money.
Riefenstein is well-cast as Farleigh, as it’s easy to see him as both charming and unsettling in equal measure. He lies, cheats, flatters and splurges his money wherever it will work to his advantage. It’s easy to see why he’s such a successful businessman. Phillips, along with Burné, Carlton and Cohen, make for a suitably avaricious ensemble as the “kept” boys (and girl), with each clutching at everything within their power to stay exactly where they are. But it’s Dennis’ vulnerability beyond his greed that is being explored… and it would probably have been more entertaining if this had not been the case. Of course we are following him on a journey, but with his plethora of wistful looks and anguished close-ups, we never truly believe that he was ever as shallow as the film would have us believe.
The second half of the movie takes us where we don’t really want to go. With a bizarre sequence featuring a trip to Colombia complete with shady drug-lords inserted midway through the arduous trudge of Dennis finding himself, I found myself longing for the earlier fun scenes, in which yes, Dennis was superficial, but also, we liked him for it. As a more thoughtful and unselfish person, Dennis is also kind of dull.
Though definitely an entertaining movie that serves some playful comedy alongside a nice slice of eye-candy (*cough* Greg Audino *cough*), this fun but slight story falls into the same trap as so many other comedy films. The set-up is brilliant, but the moment you get all serious and deep, I’m afraid you’ve lost us. Because this isn’t a serious and deep film. Keep it frothy and light, please!