Sunday, March 6, 2011

Who's That Girl - Travesty of Assumptions & Unethical Product Peddling

When she was younger, Liz Pedrosa (Anne Curtis) was hopelessly – and desperately – in love with campus heart throb John Eduque (Luis Manzano). Inspite of this, Elizabeth remained a forgotten wallflower. A few years later, the same girl has blossomed into a confident and beautiful woman, gainfully employed and still carrying her romantic torch.

One day, she reads the obituary. A John Eduque is dead. Decked in all black, covered in veil, she troops to the funeral parlor, but while she marches to the coffin of the deceased, she couldn’t contain herself. She bawls embarrassingly so - and makes a spectacle of herself. When she finally reaches the coffin, she finds out that her assumptions were wrong. It was John Eduque, Sr. lying down the casket. But it was too late. The dead man’s family has assumed the worst. Is she a mistress of the departed? Liz does a Cinderella. But to the baffled crowd, who the heck was that girl?

Most the film runs on wrong assumption, and though this may bring the expected hilarity, gags running on protracted conjectures eventually lose steam, as in the case in this slapstick fodder. In fact, Eugene Domingo’s verge-of-lunacy demeanor eventually gets on your nerves. She goes over the top everytime she is (mis)handled by director Wenn Deramas who once again proves his undying devotion to the humorless DJ Durano who’s once again cast, rather laboriously, as a condo caretaker who’s infatuated with Anne Curtis.

Many of the gags seem to run on mere cinematic duress: Nonoy Zuniga singing “Never Ever Say Goodbye” at the wake is not funny, yet this was staged as though there would be a penultimate punchline. “Follow instructions,” shouts Eugene Domingo who plays the distraught widow, Donya Belinda. Funny, right? As punishment for the deceased’s supposed indiscretion (apparently another “wrong assumption”), his body was “cremated” at the lechonan (Ping Ping’s Lechon, the billboard reads) where, as a business promo, one cremated body gets one lechon free. Did you laugh?

Bobby Yan appears as a private investigator who follows Anne around. His name is “Bond” – and if that carries an iota of pleasure to anyone, I wish I got the joke too. Marvin Agustin does a cameo as a fishball vendor and so does Ai Ai de las Alas who closes the film like a cliffhanger.

As we’ve mentioned earlier, a lot of the gags fall flat: “Makinig ka na lang sa mga trip ko.” Response: “O sige, happy trip!” Huh?

When Donya Belinda learns that all her assumptions have been tricks of the mind, she nonetheless proceeds with her vengeful plans: to discredit and dispossess Liz. Suddenly, markets are shut on them; Liz gets kicked out from her condo and fired from her job. Heck, even her little sister Betty couldn’t buy from the fish ball vendor. At this point, we were at the brink of being overly irritated. The narrative has gone out of whack; we were close to stepping out of the cinema, but the thought of our P170 made us stay. So we soldiered on.

The film banks on the manic energy of its zany cast, and a huge part of them was lead to believe that eternally irascible characters are fun to watch. Candy Pangilinan, check! Eugene Domingo, check! Pangilinan’s choleric demeanor particularly annoys the heck out of me. She always throws her line like a constipated oaf (check out KC Conception’s “For The First Time” – Pangilinan might as well be transplanted straight from that film!).

Luis Manzano has confidently found his comedic stride, and he succeeds to rise above slapstick clutter and the latter mawkish exposition. We have always liked Anne Curtis, and for the most part, she carries her character with ample verve. If only she didn’t fall into peddling consumer products as though she couldn't feed herself if Viva wouldn't allow her to endorse on screen: GSM Blue, Magnolia Life Drink, MyPhone. Did I miss Greenwich? This practice is unethical because they are encroaching on the right of the paying consumer who shells out hard earned money to watch a movie, and not "commercials". A movie should never be used to actively endorse commercial products because the audience pays to watch a film! Sponsors could be acknowledged at the end credits; NOT deliberately straddle on the narrative, which is very distracting - and quite insulting! But I guess Viva Films never learns from their “Hating Kapatid” debacle – a major flop, considering it was a team up of two well loved stars – Judy Anne Santos and Sarah Geronimo!


I'm asking any sane paying movie goer: Do you like commercials within the narrative of a movie you're watching? If you're not an idiot, then it's a no-brainer really. Would you appreciate it if in the middle of your watching "Superman", the Man of Steel suddenly pulls out a can of Coca Cola from his cape and chugs it down with gusto? Or Audrey Hepburn suddenly thrusting Modess while backriding with Gregory Peck in "Roman Holiday"? Or Edward and Bella hoisting GSM Blue while cuddling together in the next sequel of "Twilight"? Or Spiderman munching a slice of Greenwich Pizza while web-slinging? These are big no-no's. These enterprising producers arrogantly abuse the Pinoy moviegoers with such blatant practice.


When it comes to money making schemes, Viva Films treads the thin line between consumerism and greed. They did this when Sharon Cuneta was their queen (which went on when she made Unitel's "Crying Ladies"?) They have lived off product placements and overstepped their boundaries with colossal excesses. Do you wonder at all why most of their flagship projects don't make as much as they should? It’s because they cannot regulate avarice. And karma has a way of catching up with unmoderated vice. What is it in Tagalog, “gahaman”?

Viva Films’ extent of greed is directly proportional to the mediocrity of their films.

Curtis: Unethical and shameless peddling of consumer products encroach on the paying consumer's right to watch a movie free of commercials! To have to watch and pay P170, and be blatantly bathed with commercials is just misplaced consumerism and unmoderated greed! Especially when the film itself is a moron's masterpiece!

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