Saturday, May 31, 2014

Jerry Lopez Sineneng's "Maybe This Time" - All Around Awful

Awful. I was incredibly perplexed. When Sarah Geronimo opened “Maybe This Time” with a voice over, it was like listening to a “best elocution exercise”. It could earn a good mark if we were in class, but it was an exercise nevertheless. Deriving sincerity from her skewed delivery was another thing. Why Geronimo would exclusively speak in the Queen’s tongue in a story that involved Tagalog-spewing Pinoy blue collar workers is as baffling as Kris Aquino comparing “My Little Bossings” and “Spiderman 2”. It was off-putting to say the least, because it came out stilted and unnatural. Lea Salonga in “The Voice” commented that Geronimo’s English is improving. “Push mo yan,” she’d egg her on, but hearing Geronimo’s “There was never as ussssssssssss….” kept giving me goose bumps. Sharon Cuneta spoke impeccable English yet her quotable film quotes were kilometric Tagalog words, not vacuous pretentious English phrases that reeked of hollow emotions and cliches lifted from some undisclosed romantic novels. Viva Films is apparently trying hard to elevate Sarah’s hip quotient. If Jerry Lopez Sineneng’s film is any indication, then they’re doing Sarah a disservice because it is becoming obvious what she is not.

The story leaves much to be desired. Boy meets girl (Coco Martin and Sarah Geronimo, respectively) during the latter’s outreach program in an idyllic seaside community. He flirts with her while she’s giving the poor children reading lessons. But what can you say about a guy who disrupts classes, flirts in front of the kids, puts his arms on her shoulder without any resistance, sweeps her off her feet and carries her to the sea – all these even before he officially asks if he could court her. Yeah, sure, we’re tickled pink. Their world is an alternate universe of light-hearted romance. Yipee! But we have to wait for another day before she accepts his romantic offering, right? When that day finally comes, Sarah learns that she’s been abandoned. No notes, no goodbyes, no text messages, no emails, no YM offline nor Kakao talk messages. Nada. This was of course 10 years ago.

Present day. Sarah, aka Stephanie Asuncion, works for an advertising firm whose main client is Kakao Talk (so we basically know how juvenile and cheap the company is, right?) This is headed by Ruffa Gutierrez aka Boss Monica, who eats Steph for breakfast, Steph for lunch and, once again, Steph for dinner. Monica detests Steph’s ideas so much that she had to entrust an exquisitely important project to – drum roll please! – Steph! At this point, my neck wasn't moving sideways, but spinning Linda Blair 360 degrees. Why hand over a special account to the underling who constantly drew your ire? The math here just doesn't add up. But then how would Sarah and Coco (aka Anton Bugayon) meet again if we don’t overlook this unbelievable lapse of judgement and turn of events?

Turns out, Steph is still sporting a heartache, and Anton is likewise carrying a torch for Steph. Between our star-crossed lovers is a tall and statuesque, Prada-toting Monica, replete with her middle-aged lateral canthal crow’s feet. What to do?


In 2010, Sarah Geronimo and Coco Martin starred in “Idol”, a Glee-inspired TV series that didn’t fly. In fact this was unceremoniously shut down way before it’s supposed to. Even Sarah’s million-and-counting Popsters were so bored with it, they kept their distance. Writing was middling and painfully derivative, but more than that, there was no real and palpable chemistry between the two stars. What changed 4 years later? Nothing. Their pairing is as tepid now as it once was. You would think they’d learn from the TV debacle, right?

If Sarah and Coco are a match made in purgatory, Ruffa Gutierrez’s presence is a behemoth mystery. Think Bermuda Triangle, or the Stonehenge, or (ready with those lightning-catchers!!!) Kris Aquino shamelessly proclaiming herself as the Oprah Winfrey of the Philippines. Gutierrez is simply too superannuated to complete the romantic triangle of an already belabored screen pairing. And if she were a tad intuitive as an actress, she could have helped sweeten the already murky cinematic palette. But Ruffa is a Gutierrez and what have we realized about the Gutierrezes as far as thespic quotient is concerned?

That an advertising firm is suddenly tasked to turn a sorely lisping new millionaire into a socially copacetic restaurateur is one for the fairy tales. Isn't owning P40 million socially fragrant enough? They could have invested on a speech coach who could doctor the sibilant-heavy script, couldn't they? Aga Muhlach lisps but we were never aggrieved by his deliveries in movies. Coco meanwhile struggles, and these awkward moments pile up like a dozen crucifixes on our shoulder. Oh how I suffered.


The bigger question is, why was everyone in “Maybe This Time” ridiculously bad, it almost felt like it was vying for a world record of worst performances in a single movie. Steph’s trio of friends were ill-conceived. They were fugly, a fabricated gay man and an idiotic looking lass who consistently looked befuddled. Ogie Diaz as Mama Mae was more eccentric than funny you simply wanted him rushed to the loony bin. Even Shamaine Centenera – in her worst performance ever - is dragged down by a vomit-inducing script fit for GMA Films, not a Star Cinema vehicle. It’s just embarrassing! 


Now, which self-respecting “artist” would allow his narrative dredged with product placements? Only the greedy ones – Sharon Cuneta and Mark Meilly did this with “Crying Ladies”; Sarah Geronimo did the same with “Hating Kapatid”; Kris Aquino sprinkled that cinematic garbage called “My Little Bossings” with 20 products; now it’s Coco Martin’s turn – a pawnshop, an over-the-counter analgesic, an alcoholic beverage. If you are conscientious of the products you are endorsing, why would you endorse a business which takes advantage of the miseries of people in dire need of financial support? The pawning business is largely unregulated, thus it has unfair practices that prey on people’s desperation. Saying that it provides beneficent service to the needy is akin to proclaiming that Dracula loves his victims. ;) Sarah and Coco lovingly endorse this business. How inspiring, debah?

Product placements in a medium where people pay hard-earned money to watch and be entertained is simply a disrespectful and reprobate practice to a paying audience. Pambabastos. This is something Viva Films and Kris Aquino have yet to realize, but then the latter lives in the cloud of fantasy she wouldn't even comprehend the simple concept of delicadeza. There should be a law that would require local movies to have disclaimers outside the cinema stating how many "commercial products" are being peddled in the film. Say, "My Little Bossings" - 20 products; "Hating Kapatid" - 9 products, etc. This way, the movie going public will be made aware of such flagrant and abusive peddling. Enter at your own risk. Think Chito Rono's "Feng Shui" if it had shampoos, cooking broth, laundry products, fastfood chain, sanitary napkin, etc. in its story. Pakapalan na lang ng mukha, right Sarah?

Sometime in the film’s last third, the narrative downspirals into a mawkish melodrama. To tie the narrative pieces to an undeserved denouement, Steph enters an exhibition hall riddled with driftwood art pieces. What struck me were the droll, mediocre driftwood displays. Oh my goodness. No wonder Monica wanted to do away with Anton’s lofty ambitions. Weren't we supposed to be impressed? With such abominable driftwood displays, not by a long shot. I wouldn't take a single piece at home even if they gave them away for free.The point being, the story was supposed to show Anton's special skills in making precious pieces from driftwood. Turns out he was an unexceptional artist. Ho-hum! Back to the drawing board. He can't be an artist so he might as well be a restaurant owner. Get my drift?

We’re so glad that “Maleficent” had a bigger crowd when we watched both films on their opening day, considering that Jolie’s superlative film was screened in two cinemas and “Maybe This Time” only had one. Cinema Evaluations Board once again misrates the movie with a stupendous B rating. We’re not surprised. The people who populate the C.E.B. are the some of the most clueless, or opportunistic, individuals to have walked the earth. In this case, “B” could refer to that six-letter Tagalog word that means “waste, debris, rubble, trash, sweepingssssssssss”. And just maybe Sarah can elocute these enumerated words adequately.

"Maybe This Time" is like going to a buffet and coming home with steady bout of flatus. You pay much and are rewarded with nothing but air. Anyone who declares that it's a "solid movie" does not know what he's talking about, that's for sure.

Laughing all the way to the bank with a cinematic turd.


Anonymous said...

Welcome back! We missed you!
Bakit nga kaya si Ruffa? Hindi naman siya talent ng viva or star magic di ba? at madaming taga-dos na walang trabaho na mas magaling umarte at mas bata...
-Curious G

Cathy Pena said...

Thanks, Curious G. "Maybe This Time" has a coterie of missteps. They chose Ruffa probably because they wanted to give their third-wheel a degree of gravitas. Trouble is, Ruffa's so-called gravitas isn't in her acting ability. However, every one in the movie is truly bad so this didn't really matter. They could have hired Kris Aquino to play Monica and it wouldn't have made any difference. Although it could have upped the comedic ante, i.e. it could have been a LOT LOT funnier. :)