Saturday, October 1, 2011

Ligo Na U, Lapit Na Me - Sexual Games

Intoy (Edgar Allan Guzman) is having the time of his life. In his junior year in college, he crosses path with Jenny (Mercedes Cabral). While Intoy – Karl Vladimir Lennon J. Villalobos – seems content with his occasionally cash-strapped existence, Jen sashays around the campus in fashionable garbs like some object of male adulation. And she is! Fortunately for Intoy, Jen isn’t disinclined to hide her fondness to our protagonist. But despite appearances and cool-campus-dude disposition, Intoy is a novice by way of sexual kinship. One day, during a break from class, Jen asks him point blank, “How’s your sex life?” Though initially dumbfounded, he replies, “Lahat natikman ko na. Tao lang hindi.” (I’ve tried everything, except humans.) Then Jen furthers her proposition, “I want to go to bed with you now.” What’s a red-blooded young man to do?

Jen is a free spirit. She speaks her mind and does what she wants. She’s someone "who’s curious of her own body". She is generous, yet never accepts gifts. When made aware of Intoy’s financial predicament, she insists on paying for their every rendezvous. After all, they’re usually her ministrations. She scoffs at any romantic gestures, making their couplings fancy and commitment free. She insists, they’re just “friends… with benefits.” Isn’t this any guy’s fantasy?

But Jen is also loopy and labile. She would, at the drop of a hat, declare, “Ang hirap mo naming ligawan.” Or insist that Intoy trades barbs with her: “What is a good day to commit suicide?” After a few prodding, Intoy had to come up with a delightful enumeration why: “Not January because it’s the new year. Not February because it’s our prelims and people will be busy studying. Not March because it’s graduation, not to mention fire prevention month; and people might not attend your funeral. Not July because it’s the nutrition month. ” And so on... One day, Jen drops a bomb: “I’m pregnant… but this baby isn’t yours!” Then she disappears from his life forever. Well, almost.

Written with tongue-in-cheek candor and some of the most ineffable ideas that espouses everyday life, Erick C. Salud’sLigo Na U, Lapit Na Me” (Star-Crossed Love) is a brave exposition on present day sexual mores. It’s tantalizing and presents feminism by way of sexual liberation. The concepts here spread out of our comfort zones, like sympathizing with a woman who gets into a sexual relationship by dissing emotional commitment altogether. Yet we do relate to Mercedes Cabral’s enigmatic, albeit flawed Jen. Her character is too befuddling and deserved an adequate historical backgrounder (how has she evolved into this vamp? What made her become so emotionally distant?). Otherwise, it's difficult to take her character seriously. There has to be a legible explanation into her eccentricity; her stand-offish demeanor. We are creatures shaped by our past, aren’t we? Though Cabral adequately personifies Jen’s abundance of sensuality and impulsiveness, we find her just a wee bit too mature alongside her supposed junior classmates.

Edgar Allan Guzman has had prior experience relevant to thematic slices within this film. In last year’s “Magdamag” (also scripted by Jerry Gracio), he essayed the role of a young man who spent an intimate night with an older married woman (Rita Avila). Some of the intimate scenes and verbal tussle in “Ligo Na U…” are reminiscent of the narrative atmosphere in “Magdamag”. Guzman exhibits a winking portrayal that displays both his dramatic and comedic skill, all in one coherent, insightful package. His flirtatious interplay with Cabral is entertaining, and the scenes involving his financially hard-up parents (Mel Kimura and Simon Ibarra) are soberingly affecting.

Gracio’s script is a delightful drollery. But they make you think. To say that Burmese people eat cats like we devour burgers seems like a misleading idea. I’ve heard of a small group of Koreans and aboriginal Australians, but Burmese? When Intoy wonders of Jen’s influence in him, he remarks: Why can’t she stay in my loins, and not in my head? And you wonder why some people do the same too. Other remarks verge on being silly, but hilarious nonetheless: “Walang suka (vomit) na di nakakatawag pansin.

Luis Alandy cameos as a taxi driver who takes Intoy around on the night of his graduation. The latter has been given P3,000 as his parent’s gift – to splurge (for a change). But Intoy instead heads to the seedy sidewalks of Quezon Avenue, looking for Jen (who’s gone incommunicado since the big news). I’m a bit lost why he would look for Jen among street walkers. Jen was supposed to have come from a rich family (her parents were former bankers).

I have a problem with last 3rd of the narrative as it awkwardly tries to settle into a more appropriate conclusion. We’re made acutely aware that the undeniable energy and verve that jumpstarted and buoyed this movie has all but dissipated. It wasn’t a very satisfying finish. The film is an adaptation of a novel by Eros Atalia. We're not quite sure how the story was tweaked to suit the cinematic palette, but this should explain the sundry of verbose clutter found in its text work: "Bakit gusto natin ng mainit na kape kung pinapalamig din naman natin ito?" Because hot temperature helps dissolve the caffeine bits thus affecting a good mix? There's more where that came from, and if you like these smart alecky lines, you'd find pleasure in this film. “Ligo Na U, Lapit Na Me” (Star-Crossed Love) is an inspired and gratifying cinematic frolic. With an engaging story and earnest portrayals all around, it shouldn't be missed. Does it mirror the sexual games you play?

Mercedes Cabral: Indie babe!

Edgar Allan Guzman: Appealing take as Intoy.

Mercedes Cabral

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