Thursday, February 12, 2009

Movie Review: When I Met U

Jenny (KC Concepcion) and Benjie (Richard Gutierrez) are two peas in a pod. They are kindred souls who live their seemingly joyful existence through the whims of their controlling and manipulative partners (Alfred Vargas and Iya Villania, respectively). One fateful day, they find themselves spending an overnighter, marooned on a deserted island after their plane encountered mechanical trouble en route to a common friend’s wedding ceremony in Coron, Palawan. After an infuriatingly cheesy cat-and-mouse flirtation amidst lush mangroves and giant lizard, they realize an unmistakable chemistry together.

Once back in civilization, reality sets in. Hooking up as fast friends, they also realize that keeping their current relationships may prove beneficial to both their immediate families as well. But we all know that loving hearts are stubborn, and true love, as the song goes, always finds a way, doesn’t it? Well, at least, in romantic comedies, they do. And this Joel Lamangan-directed starrer is no exception.

The first time I heard that Joel Lamangan was finally chosen to helm this pre-Valentine offering, I was disappointed. I am not such a fan of Mr. Lamangan. His body of work never impressed me, except for a few (Huling Birhen sa Lupa, Deathrow and Pusong Mamon) and I don’t expect “When I Met U” to be among those. KC deserves a better fare than her first movie.

Lamangan’s strong point comes to the fore in that he knows how to somehow please a crowd (Maricel Soriano’s “Bahay Kubo”, Regal's "Mano Po" series) – but not the critically-discerning crowd though. Character development is not among Lamangan’s gifts. This is obvious in “When I Met U”. In fact, the unevenness in the individual narratives between Jenny and Benjie tilts towards Richard’s character. You get to learn the intrinsic mechanics of Benjie’s character through his dysfunctional family: a not-so-easy domestic life of a struggling pilot, an opportunistic father (Tonton Gutierrez) who would rather sell his son’s soul to the devil over the fast buck, etc.

Having said that, Richard’s character Benjie is easily a sympathetic one, and by stroke of luck, Gutierrez comes off with his most believable performance in his entire “leading man” career! We have always been vocal about our indifference to Richard Gutierrez. He was always the “beautiful leading man”, but nary a hint of brilliance. This I believe is somehow because Gutierrez was always “fortunate” enough to be given roles that were always “too big” for his shoes. After all, sometimes greatness isn’t made in a day! In this movie, Richard – like Angel Locsin in “Love Me Again” – takes his artistic steps a notch higher, and I am glad! His mother studio (GMA) has finally given him something that doesn’t overwhelm him, thereby giving him enough space to let his character evolve at his own pace.

Which leaves us with KC Concepcion!

The first 20 minutes of the movie was nagging my patience. KC plays Jenny - a “mall promodizer” (is there really such a term?) who comes off a little too loud and flirty, crass and awkward, and for several instances, more infuriating than endearing or humorous. But as Jenny’s story unravels, we begin to see her in various levels of intensity. This beautiful face is an experimental actress, something that her dear mother Sharon Cuneta would have benefited from had the latter not been too sheltered by Viva Films back in the days. KC does not mind trying new techniques even if in the process, she would look ridiculous (the Hotdog scene), overzealous (the bayawak scene where instead of running away from fright, she waddles in the mud), or downright desperate (the airport scene where she bawls her heart out as her bridal train floats poetically in mid-air). KC is indeed her parent’s daughter – a natural! Had she been banal or flat, she would still look lovely on celluloid. But we have to underline the fact that KC is most effective in her quiet moments; when she weeps without saying much. She must have learned from her mom’s experience in “Madrasta”.

Now, how is “When I Met U” as a cinematic offering? Is it a masterpiece? Surely, it is not! And no one expects it to be. This is made without a grand ambition to be both epic and romantic (like the pretentious and amateurish "Baler"). In fact, the story is way too simplistic; the situations too “maneuvered” to be really believed, but this is where this film succeeds. When a fan-movie doesn’t pretend to be something more than what it is – a crowd-pleasing “fan movie”, then it won’t fall down the pit that made “For the First Time” or even “Paano Kita Iibigin” a big disappointment to “love story” fans like me!

Congratulations KC and Richard!

... an empty piece of a shell...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

flashback - crying ladies as a great film

seems only yesterday when the "crying ladies" heralded the advent of an exciting young film maker. my memories came rushing back as this week's features this movie in the site's "on our shelves" feature. suddenly, there is an exciting spirit that fields fresh story telling, brisk editing and a brave new persona for philippine showbiz's all-time megastar. we were thrilled, to say the least.

BUT THEN, 6 years have passed and what has its director mark meilly really accomplished based on his 3rd film since "crying ladies"? the answer isn't flattering. and i am once again transported back in time why the crying ladies was actually just a mirage of greatness.

here is what i remember: this was a commercial revamping of a popular actress' ambitions to be taken seriously. in some ways, sharon cuneta succeeded, but what cinematic vision is to be had from a director and an actress who flood their first movie together with product endorsements? love mo ba to? love ko to! lucky you and lucky me! haha...

talk about an uncompromising vision. LOL

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

revitalized after the disappointing holidays

With exams all behind me, i found myself enjoying the humdrum of my life as a shoe-obsessed, film-loving, Mauritius-dreaming Manila girl... so i gallantly offered to pay for my friend's movie seat to watch "Jay" - this Baron Geisler indie that my friend doesn't want to watch.

Lately, most of the movies that I've invited him were so bad he ends up literally vomiting after watching. This started with the whole line-up of Metro Manila Film festival trash that made my head spin. I have single-handedly busted a little fortune paying for the admissions of these basuras. My friend just laughs at my rants saying i deserve this artistic bankruptcy for patronizing the aforementioned movies. "Buti nga so yo," he keeps taunting me. Why? Because I patronized Pinoy films during the whole festival bonanza?

He was saying how asinine Joel Lamangan's Desperadas 2 was. And that I dozed off at a cartoon called Dayo - and I have always LOVE animated films! Don't rub it in! And Shake Rattle and Roll? Shouldn't they have buried this franchise back when Rambo was king? Then there's the multi-awarded Baler! Oh gawd! Whatever happened to occasional director Mark Meilly (he directed 3 films in 5 years) who brought cinematic gems (Crying Ladies, La Visa Loca) in the past. Every bit of that movie was plain amateurish! Para kang nanood ng school play na nagbabaril-barilan ang mga sundalo. LOL.

Then comes "Jay". Ok, I shelled out an extra P120 just to have a friend watch this movie with me. Guess what! After a sketchy start, the whole piece came through. This was a rewarding experience at the movies. People should watch this instead of all those TRASH that polluted the Christmas holidays! Lintik! Pinagastos pa ako!