Thursday, August 19, 2010

In Your Eyes – Of Cinematic Jokes and Bad Chemistry

Let’s forget for a second that Mac C. Alejandre hasn’t really made a decent film in his entire directorial career (and I refuse to even discuss anything from anyone who considers Bong Revilla’s “Ang Panday” a superior work), and that Claudine Barretto has established herself as that quintessential face of the itinerant Filipina (“Milan”, “Dubai”).

In Alejandre’s “In Your Eyes”, Barretto is Ciara, a physical therapist who braves the urban jungles of California to support her younger sister Julia (Anne Curtis). They lost their mother when Julia was born, and Ciara has since devoted her waking hours to fill the maternal void. “Hating Kapatid”, anyone? This is exactly Juday and Sarah passing the torch to Claudine and Anne, but instead of Libyan OFW’s coming home, they uproot themselves to Los Angeles! Filling the vast suitcase to inveigle a narrative is the eternally pouting Richard Gutierrez! Very original, right?

Gutierrez plays Storm, a name ambivalent enough to dash a bit of an edge to Gutierrez’s drying-paint countenance. He meets Julia in a bar and before he knew what hit him, they set out for an American adventure. He couldn’t live without Julia (was she that explosive in bed, a one night stand would inspire illegal migration?) But life in the Land of Green Bucks can be so cruel even to greek Gods like Gutierrez.

While Julia endures school and work, Storm is left grieving for his social injustice. The heavens would cave in if he reduces himself to “process films” at work. He envisions himself as some Annie Leibovitz, snapping portraits of the rich and famous while sipping Chardonnay. He is a photographer and it is beyond him to print photographs where he is employed illegally “in a photo shop”! He is insulted by such menial work – sitting in an AC room in front of a processing machine. He felt debased and degraded, and utterly humiliated! His refusal eventually lead to his superior calling him a “Filipino Rat”, and that about takes the cake. With his manly beauty and abounding charm, he throws the towel, an act that, to Mr. Gutierrez, would illustrate repugnance – or outrage! He walks out of his heavy-manual-labor job. And we sympathize with him. Poor boy!

While Storm is licking his wounds, where is Julia to lick them for him? Oh wait, the long agonizing Ate Ciara is there to walk the fire! Did I mention that Storm and Ciara (yup, Ciara – not Julia) actually got married so that Storm could get his green card? If you didn't get that from the trailers, you must live in a satellite space ship stationed at the next constellation.

And we know where all this is leading.

Claudine Barretto demotes herself from the masterful and epic strokes of the Star Cinema narratives on migration to something like an ill conceived, overly sappy melodrama, and what’s more, she looks matronly beside Richard Gutierrez. Her face is all puffed up, like they forgot to deflate her after giving birth. What’s worse is that she keeps wearing garments a size smaller than her girth, you see her bursting at the seams. You would find Ms. Barretto desperately catching up with Anne's and Richard's physical attributes: wearing heels while taking a stroll down the beach or while shopping. Tsk tsk tsk. To be relatively young and looking like you've been zapped into your mid-40's! And you wonder why she suddenly bolted from ABS CBN when she learned she'd be paired against her lovely, statuesque sister Gretchen Barretto for what would become "Magkaribal".

Such humanity... such vanity to take offense from comparisons with your own blood sister!

There was this scene where she had to walk down a stair and we see her flopping and bouncing away; a little too heavy on her stride. And in several scenes, we’d see her hair pasted flat to her scalp, further accentuating her “busog” look! In short, her romantic pairing with Richard feels nothing less than a fairy tale from writer Keiko Aquino’s prolific mind! You’d think Viva and GMA would have realized half way through shooting that Claudine got paired with the wrong twin! In fact, this would have been a perfect vehicle, not for Richard, but for Raymond Gutierrez!

Anne Curtis does better, the obedient actress that she is. But this isn't her moment in the sun! She meanders with raw talent; something that needs fine-tuning and intensity. An intensity not exactly showcased by kilometric verbal tussle, loud arguments, or a bucket full of tears. Anne is young, and she will get there one day.

Now, Richard Gutierrez is a conundrum to us. Sometime in the last 2 years, we actually thought that he was growing as a performer. Apparently not! In several scenes where he was saying, “I love you” to either Claudine or Anne, we were struck with his several degrees of banality. His expressions were vapid, and his emotions prosaic. I could probably elicit gravitas from an inanimate object more than from Richard Gutierrez!

In its running time of 120 minutes or so, we were never moved one bit! And this, by far, is 2010’s most protracted – and sappiest - melodrama! Yet with all of its ludicrous emotionality, there is not a single tear from me! That can’t be good! Heck, I even shed a tear from the shameless “Hating Kapatid”!

This too has some of the dumbest characters on silver screen. We have a doctor (Joel Torre) who heads a Rehab Center. Whenever he has a personal problem, this idiot would seek the counsel of his employee (Claudine) who must be 20 years his junior! Even when he discusses a case regarding his patient (about an athlete), he would consult with the Physical Therapist in order to decide on the disposition of the patient! Claudine would show him the xray of the patient, and instead of checking out the xray plates himself for an objective professional insight, he would ask the PT instead! The doctor is asking the PT what to do with the patient! Now you wonder why the people of “Desperate Housewives” think of Filipino doctors as a joke!

This also has one of the silliest endings, which I'd let you "discover". Despite being a potboiler filled with several narrative skips (7 years later, 8 months later, another 8 months later, 2 years later), you would notice that everyone looks exactly the same! Same hair cut! Same girth! Same manner of dressing! As though time stood still! I had to pinch myself. I almost forgot that this is a film by director Mac C. Alejandre!

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