NOTTING HILL (Roger Michell, 1999)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Notting Hill:

1. No matter how many times I tried to repress the memory, I would never forget that I once played Julia Roberts as Anna Scott for a skit about absolute love (how apt!) in a college Philosophy class. Long story short, I couldn’t make the Hugh Grant character William Thacker believable since I obviously lacked his puppy eyes and boyish charm so our group leader thought of reversing the gender roles where I ended up voicing (since I apparently wasn’t too pretty to be Anna as well) the female part.

We recreated that entire iconic bookstore scene and I delivered the “I’m just a girl standing in front of a boy…” line with an awkward high pitch that sounded like Lani Mercado’s wicked witch in the Sleeping Beauty episode of Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang. Our presentation obviously bombed (all those confused looks would continue to haunt me in my dreams) and I walked out of that class feeling like Vivian in Pretty Woman getting thrown out of a posh boutique in Rodeo Drive (and since this was real life, I didn’t even get a redemption scene).

2. Julia may have won her Oscar for Erin Brockovich, but her performance here would probably be my most favorite. Sure, the woman with the (then $15M) megawatt smile was basically playing another version of her rich and famous, A-list celebrity persona, but the fact that she gamely poked fun at herself (loved it when Anna pointed at her nose and chin when asked about her cosmetic surgeries) and revealed the sadness beneath all the fame and glory was really admirable.

Her Anna character was also completely flawed (and actually bordered on being despicable with just the way he treated William) and yet I still really, really wanted to be her friend (to the point that it would also be an honor for me to have her in my loo). Her best scene was at the dinner table where everyone was trying to win that last brownie and her face displayed the longing to experience the kind of love that the mortals (er, William and his friends) had.

3. Speaking of that dinner scene, I could easily pinpoint the part where I would immediately start sobbing every single time I’d watch this film. It was when Bella (Gina McKee) explained that she deserved the last brownie for having the saddest life because she was stuck in a wheelchair and could not bear kids. This was followed by a shot of her husband Max (Tim McInnerny) silently giving her this look of genuine love. Romantic or not, we all deserved someone just like him.

(Their other scenes that made me bawl my eyes out: when he carried her upstairs for the night when William decided to sleep over at their house and when he couldn’t afford to leave her during the climactic chase scene and carried her inside the car. Hala, just thinking of these made me teary-eyed again!)

4. A lot of people would probably knock this film down for being too formulaic to a fault, but it shamelessly peddled itself as a fairy tale so I didn’t mind at all (“This is the stuff that happens in dreams, not in real life.”) A huge Hollywood star falling in love with a commoner who looked like Hugh would be the ultimate fantasy, right?

Comical meet cute, set of kooky friends (Rhys Ifans’ Spike as the standout, course), soundtrack of sappy love songs (Ronan Keating’s When You Say Nothing At All >>> Alison Krauss’ version tbh), final romantic declaration of love, all tropes utilized to maximum effect. It was surreal, but nice.

5. I had a (fortunately) short phase where I pretended to be a charming Brit ala Hugh and ended up sounding like a post-Kabbalah Madonna. I replaced my “Susmaryosep” with “Whoopsie daisy” and “Ay tae!” with “Shickity brickity”, but those didn’t stick. Foreign catchphrases and accents were never really my thing. I couldn’t even properly imitate an American accent when I worked as a call center agent that resulted to one customer referring to me as a weird Hawaiian guy.

6. Spot the cameos: Matthew Modine! Alec Baldwin! Mischa Barton! Emily Mortimer!

7. That one long take of Ain’t No Sunshine with the changing seasons was really lovely. I would one day be able to visit Portobello Road Market and that iconic blue door. Who would be willing to fund my London trip?

8. “For June who loved this garden. From Joseph who always sat beside her.”

“Some people do spend their whole lives together.” ❤️❤️❤️

9. I didn’t really need this film to make me realize that some people could influence you to do something better or be a better person even if they had hurt you, but it was nice to be reminded of this with every viewing. #whogoat

10. “The fame thing isn’t really real, you know?”

A huge star ready to give up everything for love? Your move, Bebe Idol Sarah G. Rooting for your happy fairy tale ending as well.

Rating: ★★★★★

WONDER (Stephen Chbosky, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

I would usually advise people to bring a box of tissues to an obvious tearjerker, but this time I would also suggest that you include a bottle of water. I was probably crying on every littlest thing from start to finish that I was completely dehydrated by the time the end credits rolled.

Hearing the thoughts and watching the experience of Auggie Pullman (wunderkind Jacob Tremblay from Room), a kid with major facial deformities trying his best to survive in the real world was just heartbreaking. He referred to his birth as a punchline in his parents’ lives. He walked the school halls face down to avoid the blatant stares. He was subjected to severe bullying and branded as contagious. One kid even asked if he only ate special food. Completely depressing stuff.

The magic of the film though was that even if it occasionally wallowed in emotional manipulation, it was still an uplifting and heartwarming story about love and support from family and friends and that whenever we’re given the choice between being right or being kind, we should always (always!) choose kind.

I really liked that the story was told from different perspectives and showed how the lives of the people around Auggie were affected as well. My favorite point of view was from his selfless sister, a teen that often felt neglected because her sibling understandably needed more attention and compassion. Why couldn’t we all be like her?

And could the Academy please give Julia Roberts a much-needed nomination for her fantastic performance as the patient and occasionally overbearing mother? The scene where she was explaining that our face was a map that showed us where we’ve been could have been incredibly cheesy, but it worked because of her innate sensitivity as an actress.

The film did need a bit more trimming especially towards the end and it would have been more realistic if it didn’t have such a clean resolution where everyone suddenly transformed into better versions of themselves.

Even Auggie will agree that at the end of the day, no matter how flawed we may be, we all deserve a standing ovation, at least once in our lives.

Rating: ★★★★☆

MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING (P.J. Hogan, 1997)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on My Best Friend’s Wedding:

1. Has it really been twenty years already since the psychopathic Jules (Julia Roberts) tried to sabotage her best friend’s wedding because she was deluded enough (hopelessly in love? What’s the diff?) into thinking that he preferred her Jell-O to Kimmy’s (Cameron Diaz) crème brulée? The answer was a glaring yes coming from the chunky cellular phones with long antennas (resembling pang-kaskas ng yelo!) that were used in this film.

2. That joyous I Say a Little Prayer sing-along would be the scene most remembered here, but I would always be partial to the frothy, silly opening title sequence with a bride and her three chuwariwap bridesmaids singing and dancing along to Ani Di Franco’s Wishin’ and Hopin’. It was just the perfect way to set the tone for this lighthearted (and surprisingly subversive) rom-com.

Additional tidbit: I owned a cassette tape copy of the soundtrack that I listened to every single day for about two months. How could you not fall in love with Jann Arden’s You Don’t Know Me, The Exciter’s Tell Him (pre-Ally McBeal), and Tony Bennett’s The Way You Look Tonight? Perfect wedding playlist.

3. I remembered making a similar pact with a friend that when we turned 30 (or was it 35?) and we were still both single, I would either marry her or have a kid with her. I was so happy when she found herself a boyfriend because I ended up having my baby juice all to myself. Wait, that sounded really disgusting (but not as much as picturing myself in a tux and getting married).

4. To this day, I still couldn’t see why these two beautiful women were fawning over Michael (Dermot Mulroney). He was just too bland and fickle-minded and unhygienic (never forget that he sucked that ring off of Jules’ finger; nope, not romantic because my head was screaming BOOGER!!, er, GERMS!!).

Seriously, everyone was probably rooting for George (Rupert Everett, snubbed of an Oscar nom!) to end up with Jules and wishin’ and hopin’ that he were straight because he had twice as much personality and just looked so fun to be with. Plus, I could easily see myself in George because I would be that kind of friend who would say things like “Who’s chasing you? Nobody. You’re not the one.” Brutal, but honest.

5. I really liked that Julia played a villain for a change (most of her shenanigans bordered on being criminal, and she was just a vile and selfish person), but because she was Julia Roberts, it was hard to completely hate her. Those pratfalls to earn laughs were completely unnecessary, though.

My favorite scene with her would be the one where she cried while dancing with Michael on a ferry (although I did tear up a bit as well during her maid of honor toast, she actually loaned her relationship song *sob* *sob*).

6. Always and forever #TeamKimmy, even if her wedding dress was horrible, especially when compared to the gorgeous lavender dress of Jules.

7. “Choose me. Marry me. Let me make you happy.” Did this sound familiar, Meredith Grey (or Momma Shonda Rhimes)?

8. If this were a Star Cinema movie, it would have probably ended with George (played by Joross Gamboa, of course!) realizing that he was actually straight and that he really loved Jules as more than a friend after all.

Goodbye Dionne Warwick, hello Marion Aunor!

Rating: ★★★★☆

EAT PRAY LOVE (Ryan Murphy, 2010)

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I considered this movie as one of the worst of 2010. After another viewing, I realized that it wasn’t so bad after all and it did have its genuine warmth and charm.

The movie rested solely on the shoulders of Julia Roberts and she succeeded in making a whiny, selfish, self-centered woman somewhat relatable and sympathetic.

I especially enjoyed the “Eat” part with all the dining, drinking, and laughing. I just added “Italy Food Trip” to my growing bucket list.

Rating: 3/5