MEET ME IN ST. GALLEN (Irene Villamor, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Meet Me in St. Gallen:

1. It might be my limited knowledge of films (or my utter love for the series), but every time I’d see a romantic movie where the two leads just talk for hours, I immediately think of the classic Before Trilogy. It set such a high standard that anything else that remotely came close to its structure/style would (unfairly) end up as a mere copycat in my book.

This movie felt very much like a condensed version of the trilogy, except that the rambling discussions were less philosophical and more hugot-based (“Hindi ako painting na mailalagay mo sa pader”). Which would have been forgivable if it just wasn’t so… boring.

(Also, I thought that Raffy and Gela of Mr. and Mrs. Cruz would end up as this year’s most talkative characters, but I was obviously wrong.)

2. The meet cute was actually fine and it was interesting to watch the interactions between the spunky Celeste (Bela Padilla) and the more subdued Jesse (Carlo Aquino). Although it initially had that creepy stalker feel of Kita Kita with him bumping into her outside of a public restroom (where all great love stories start) and then began following her everywhere, she immediately confronted him (“Nagagandahan ka ba sa akin kaya mo ako sinusundan?”) and thankfully put a stop to this emerging love story trope that should never be romanticized.

I also wondered if Celeste would have entertained Jesse in the coffee shop if he looked like, say, Empoy Marquez so I felt amused when she was obviously one step ahead of the audience and said, “Kung di ka gwapo, di kita papaupuin dyan.”

(And totoo, sobrang gwapo lang ni Carlo dito that it made me forget he used to be part of the kiddie boyband JCS with John Prats and Stefano Mori. Wait, I meant sobrang galing. Galing, galing, galing!!)

3. I should actually hate Celeste because a) she spoiled the ending of Celeste and Jesse Forever, b) she had the gall to brag about her eight hundred friends on Facebook, c) she complained about being a misunderstood graphic artist yet made a basic layout that seemed to be a product of WordArt, d) one of her art works consisted of a pole with several hanging labada, and e) since she was an ahrt-ist, her dining table was decorated with scattered jigsaw puzzle pieces, but Bela’s such a good actress that I lapped up everything that she said and did.

4. I should actually hate Jesse because a) he asked if Celeste and Jesse Forever had a happy ending (and then complained about the spoiler, huh?), b) he sounded like a second-rate Abra that talked like Boy Abunda (“Kapag ako lang mag-isa, gusto kong isulat ang tungkol sa mga ibinubulong ko sa langit”), c) he broke several laws by answering his phone while drunk driving, and d) he cheated on Angelica Panganiban (well, not the real one, rather his fiancée in the picture), but Carlo’s such a good actor… wait, I already covered that.

5. Of course it wouldn’t be complete without a videoke session. Now if only I hadn’t recently heard and associated You Are My Sunshine with Annabelle: Creation…

6. I really couldn’t understand why Celeste would suddenly walk out of a romantic moment (“Sobrang perfect naman ng moment na ‘to. Wag natin sirain”) and then sleep with an obviously engaged Jesse four years later. Was it supposed to signal her transition from idealist to realist? Did absence make her heart grow fonder? What happened to emotional maturity?

(Side note: This was obviously a woman’s fantasy because the couple actually had an incredibly long talk in bed after having sex. And the next day, Celeste had an I-woke-up-like-this look with perfect eyebrows.)

7. All of those snowy Switzerland scenes looked really lovely. I wish I could say that I’d love to tick that off my bucket list, but definitely not after my nose almost fell off in Japan last month (and it wasn’t even below zero there).

8. Sobrang pahabol si Celeste. It took several minutes (and blocks) of endless walking and talking before she actually revealed that she already had a boyfriend. Ganda mo girl! Ginawan na ng tula ni Fidel, ngayon naman kanta ni Jesse pero basted pareho. I honestly couldn’t wait for the 100 Kanta ni Bela song hits.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

MR. & MRS. CRUZ (Sigrid Andrea Bernardo, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Mr. & Mrs. Cruz:

1. As a huge fan of the Before Trilogy (Sunrise, Sunset, Midnight) and even That Thing Called Tadhana, I’m not averse to talky (and sometimes cerebral) romance films where the audience basically listens in on a couple having conversations about life and love and relationships and literature and cinema and music and food and even any mundane stuff that can serve as a possible source for an emotional hugot. It takes a consistently smart screenplay and incredibly talented actors to keep people glued to the screen and not make them wish that they never get stuck on an island with these characters.

At around the first hour mark when Gela (Ryza Cenon) and Raffy (JC Santos) were having their nth Cliff’s Notes discussion of Romeo and Juliet, I was already busy checking my phone for the cheapest flights to Puerto Princesa.

2. It was tough to stay invested in their love story when the song that was played upon their meet cute was Freestyle’s Before I Let You Go (talk about a doomed relationship). No amount of convincing (their Valentine’s Day hotel room number, their matching curls and the idea that couples look alike after being together for a long time, the obvious metaphor of him saving her life after a Heimlich maneuver, and even their shared adventurousness in eating the local delicacy tamilok) could make me believe that they were destined to end up with each other. Besides, Raffy owned a pair of neon peach swimming trunks. Very, very fishy.

3. I was actually okay with everything up until the unnecessary twist (of fate) slash big reveal in the third act that just plucked us out of reality. It was disappointing to see Sigrid Bernardo, one of my fave local directors, relying on yet another gimmick to end a love story (hello Kita Kita!). At least walang nasagasaan this time, especially considering the beach setting.

4. To be fair, JC and Ryza were completely charming in their roles and when they were provided with really sharp dialogue (my favorite was that entire discussion on commitment and the formality/legality/security of marriage), they just knocked it out of the park. Both of them also made the most out of their drunk breakdown scenes (“I found Nemo, but I didn’t find myself”) which should be screened in acting workshops for Star Magic and GMA Artist Center talents.

5. I was a bit bothered that Raffy and Gela only brought one backpack each for their weekend trip. I spent three days in El Nido (looking even lovelier here btw) and brought a medium-sized luggage with half the contents of my closet. Gela’s stuff included around six classic novels (yes, one was Romeo and Juliet). When would she even find the time to read all of them considering that she booked guided tours as well?

On a different note, I really liked her insight that we should re-read our faves because they would be subject to a different interpretation given our maturity and experiences in life. Let me dig up my old issues of Liwayway.

6. It wasn’t lost on me that one of the couples in that tour resembled Ogie Alcasid and Michelle van Eimeren. Our tourism slogans of Wow Philippines and It’s More Fun in the Philippines weren’t for naught. Also, Dido dela Paz as one half of the Golden Couple continued to provide great work, coming off the heels of his critically-lauded performance in Respeto.

7. So who lost that wedding gown sa batuhan during one of the movie’s early scenes? Please tell me that was just an illusion because I could not stand littering in our tourist spots.

8. I felt bad that some of the good jokes were literally lost in translation. When Raffy tried to be funny by replying with “Minikaniko ni Monico ang makina ni Monica”, the subtitle reflected it as “pulled a MacGyver” which didn’t really make a lot of sense. But then how would one even translate that?

9. That disgusting suka scene omg. I would probably avoid oatmeal for the next few months (who am I kidding, does my double chin even look like I eat oatmeal?). Bonus crotch shot though so…

10. I laughed really hard when Raffy mentioned that everything happens for a reason and then started telling the story of his ex who was a nurse that taught him first aid. I was reminded of my ex who was also a nurse that taught me the wonders of sushi. Both life-saving, I tell you.

11. Okay so they didn’t remember that they actually met a few years back in Palawan? Try Memo Plus Gold, kids. What was more unforgivable was that they never even bothered to re-dub the part where Ryza had a voiceover and said the word “trud-jedy”. Watch your back, Maja!!

12. Why would Raffy even know a brief hack that could turn his underwear into a bikini top? Even worse, it was a used pair of undies that he just removed on the boat (butt exposure alert!). Why does hygiene have to go out the window for a supposedly romantic gesture? Did the phrase “smell of love in the air” actually refer to the scent of bayag? Medyo eww.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆