“The Tuxedo” Series Review (Ep.1 to 8)

What can you say about this series that has not already been said about a zillion other Thai BL series? Handsome actors, great ambience, fabulous clothes, imprecise story; which is too bad because the main actors can act, as they did bring some character intensity to their roles. The story however, went flat and pedestrian.

Aiaoon, played by Green Padungtiwong, is a high-end tailor with a good reputation. He is a mild-mannered, immaculately dressed individual who is astonishingly handsome and has the most ravishing lips I have ever seen on anyone. He is quiet and values his reputation above all else. Aiaoon is also a very principled individual who will not make suits for anyone with a bad reputation. He operates the business with his two younger brothers. One evening a stranger, Sichol (Tape Sirikongsuwan) helps Aiaoon’s brother fend off an attack. In the process, his suit sleeve is ripped and Aiaoon provides him with a stunningly well-fitted suit for an interview he was getting ready to attend. When he goes for his interview with Mr. Nawee (Chap Chanapai), Sichol finds him to be arrogant, obnoxious, and intimidating. But he gives Sichol a chance to be his assistant because he is impressed with Sichol’s well tailored suit. As such, Nawee sets a condition- get the same tailor to stitch a suit for him and Sichol would get the job. Nawee plans to wear the suit to his Father’s upcoming birthday party and hence it has to be perfect. Aiaoon is initially resistive to the idea, because of bad blood between their respective fathers. But he soon acquiesces and makes the suit for Nawee. During that time and in the process of measuring, designing, and fitting the suit, they become attracted to each other.

Of course, there are the usual formulaic roadblocks. As both fall in love with each other, Aiaoon neglects to mention that he has a girlfriend with a pending engagement. There is the dastardly unsympathetic father who, at this own birthday party that Nawee arranges, proceeds to tell his illegitimate son that he is disowning him and replacing him with his only ‘legitimate’ son who will now run the family business. Of course, this nearly destroys Nawee and almost pushes him over the edge. All this simply adds to Nawee’s ongoing other mental health issues.

The major bedrock of this story is Nawee’s irrational and crippling fear of leaving his house. Nawee has a very serious and all-encompassing mental health issue that cannot be remedied by a couple of what appears to be easy fixes. While I am not a psychiatrist, an educated conjecture would be that he suffers from agoraphobia, brought on by intense childhood anxiety with a Dependent Personality Disorder. That is a lot to process and that would be a story in of itself to explore. Rather than all the trivial formulaic scenarios, the story should have focused on what was really happening now with him. I think this story also faltered, merely glossing over and almost ignoring Aiaoon’s complete and total acceptance of Nawee’s shortcomings. He unhesitatingly is willing to help and support him through his episodic breakdowns. If this is not a true example of genuine love, I do not know what is. If the storyline had continued along with this commitment, then the story would have been remarkable. One can most assuredly fall in love with someone with mental health issues, but to love someone with that requires understanding, commitment, and fortitude. That is also the story.

Instead, it was made episodic and formulaic. These series have got to stop treating serious mental health issues so cavalierly and easily treatable with some form of reality therapy. Frankly, I am tiring of series treating mental illness as a prop or play toy. You use it for a while and then discard it like it is now unimportant. What is honest about this series is Nawee’s behavior and how he thinks, given his background on rejection, being bullied, and abandonment. Indeed, there are individuals with mental illness that can pretend to be functioning normally outwardly, but completely fall apart inside quickly. Hence, Nawee’s reaction to his father’s rejection of him makes sense. Ironically, Aiaoon’s personality is painted rather realistically as well. While he has true feelings for Nawee and wants to be his rock of support, he does so with a little understanding of how deep Nawee’s issues are. And his own inability to be forthright adds to the mix with disastrous results. While he remains steadfast, wanting to help and is truly falling in love with Nawee, he inadvertently contributes to Nawee’s confusion as to how to feel. With a person already steeped in rejection and anxiety coupled with a sense that no one can love him, he is going to react intrinsically negative when he hears that the person he is falling for, and being vulnerable with, is going to be engaged to his girlfriend. He will turn all that inward. Mixed messages and mixed signals are going to be triggers for anyone as fragile as Nawee, that needed and ought to have been explored, even a little, rather than sticking to formulaic standards of what BLs should look like.

This series started out promising and rather enjoyable, but then it slipped into endless tropes. Why? It had good actors all around. The story was promising, yet rather than be original or creative it slipped back into what is a familiar plot – unannounced girlfriend, nasty father, and worst of all, a deprecatory understanding of mental illness. While there is a reconciliation in the end, it is so formulaic. Honestly, their kissing is some of the best I have seen in recent Thai BLs. It showed passion. They also have a certain chemistry between them that they obviously worked hard to show. Their connection, for the most part, is believable but the whole story is so rushed that it does not really feel genuine. It is too bad that these series as of late are so short and so few. It is hard to care for the characters and there is too much need to ‘fill in the blanks’ to make it flow. So, the audience has to do a lot of conjuring to make sense of it.

For me, this series committed a giant faux pas to end this series. Sure, it ends with a torrid kiss, that was wasted away with the usual endless platitudinal flashbacks with music and then nothing. It just simply ends. This is not how a good series would close. Well, onto the next series then, since this one left me so empty.

Rating: 3 out of 5

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