QUEZON’S GAME (Matthew Rosen, 2018)

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So I was today years old when I learned that Balintawak was renamed as Quezon City after our country’s second President. I obviously slept through my History classes, which was what I almost did while watching this oh-so-standard biopic.

This untold story of our local Schindler’s List was admirable enough, but probably would have worked better as a documentary. How many more times would historical films be set in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar?

Susan Africa trope: a person dying of tuberculosis always owned a white handerkerchief where he/she would conveniently cough up a gallon of blood.

During the end credits, one of the Jewish survivors’ descendants spoke about Filipinos being non-racist. Uh, to Jewish people probably because they never really interacted much with them. Try the blacks, or Indians, or Chinese.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

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NEVER NOT LOVE YOU (Antoinette Jadaone, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Never Not Love You:

1. You know how in a relationship you’re willing to look beyond the faults of your partner simply because you really like/love the other person? I felt the exact same way about this gorgeously-shot, well-told long-distance relationship film that was eerily similar to Drake Doremus’ Like Crazy from its London setting down to the bittersweet montage of memories ending. It couldn’t have been all just a coincidence, right?

2. For a love team that prided itself as Team Real, it was a joy to watch Nadine Lustre (as Joanne) and James Reid (as Gio) in a mature love story that wasn’t afraid of ruffling conservative feathers (I found it funny that I was very much that old lady in the corridor during the moving in scene that lamented, “Mga kabataan talaga ngayon!”).

I also admired the gutsy decision of not upholding/protecting any wholesome movie star image by having them play characters that looked, sounded, and acted like any authentic young adult. Smoking a cigarette? Living together outside of marriage? Expletives-filled shouting matches? Post-coital bed scene? I could just imagine a horde of grandmothers shrieking “Santissima santa!” while clutching on to their plastic rosaries and JaDine’s all like “C’mon guys, it’s 2018!”.

3. As a South person that couldn’t even maintain a relationship with an ex who relocated to Quezon City, I wouldn’t be the best advocate slash strong believer of a long distance romance (mad props for people that could sustain this kind of relationship, though). The challenges were made more blatant in this movie when the only form of communication between Joanne and Gio consisted of Skype calls. They basically lived in two separate worlds where time difference was the least of their concerns. This level of commitment alone triggered a major anxiety attack on my end.

4. Sobrang ganda ng cinematography. It reminded me so much of Wong Kar-Wai’s films (I suddenly pictured a bunch of cinephiles raising their eyebrows right about now). If you hadn’t seen any of his stylish films, this could serve as your introduction (then move on to In the Mood for Love or Chungking Express).

Also, how were they able to shoot all those lovely motorcycle scenes? Ang galing!

5. I wish James could work more on his accent so that he would be able to deliver his Pinoy lines more comfortably (it would also give him a broader range of characters outside of the typical conyo or Amboy). Side note: I had a good laugh though when he said “May mustard po kayo?” at the carinderia.

I still sympathized with Gio even if his character was an unlikable immature brat (seryoso, may lalaki lang kasama si Joanne sa club maninira na agad ng gamit?). And he was probably one of the few local actors that could deliver major kiligs with a line like “Maybe I don’t want you to wear other guys’ helmets”. Hongkyut!

Anyway, his accent was the only distraction in an otherwise heartfelt performance (I’m still amazed whenever he would cry on cue, with his best scene in bed feeling an overwhelming sense of comfort and contentment that his girlfriend agreed to move with him to London. Those silent tears just spoke volumes.)

6. Speaking of tears, I think everyone would agree that this was Nadine’s best performance to date. Everything about it screamed “I’m a serious actress!” that would definitely put her in the running for next year’s awards derby. My favorite scene was when she was driving her new car with the entire family in tow and her usually disapproving father (Rez Cortez) touched her arm and her face showed a mixture of pride, relief, and happiness. For a relatively quiet and subtle moment, it just had so much impact. Damang-dama ko siya dun.

7. Of course I cried during that “Wag kang lilingon” scene. I cried even more when Joanne didn’t look back the second time around.

Also, ang sakit sobra nung linya na “You’ve become the Joanne that you’re supposed to be…. but without me.” Waaaah!

8. Some of their issues felt a bit petty, no? When Gio shouted at Joanne (“Kung gusto mong umuwi, eh di umuwi ka!”), did it really merit a slap on the face? I thought you both swore to never not love each other?

9. Now let’s discuss that polarizing ending. I know a lot of people that hated how the resolution felt rushed or that the final scene was vague, but that was the exact reason why I found it to be perfect.

My interpretation of it was that Joanne felt trapped in the relationship. Things were just not the same as they used to be. Their exchange of I love yous already lacked genuine emotion and felt very perfunctory. There was an immense sadness in her eyes when Gio said that he would be returning for good. She didn’t show much excitement during his last visit either. And the clincher, hindi sya lumingon sa second airport scene. It was sad to see a doomed relationship even before the screen faded to black.

10. As a final note, this production was notoriously plagued by so many controversies that I was surprised at how good things actually turned out. In the end, was everything worth it?

Rating: ★★★★☆

THE UNMARRIED WIFE (Maryo J. Delos Reyes, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Unmarried Wife:

1. I had an overwhelming sense of deja vu while watching this newest kabit movie from Star Cinema. Hmm, a non-linear narrative written by Vanessa Valdez and directed by Maryo J. Delos Reyes where Angelica Panganiban played a scorned wife trying to win her husband back. Oh, it was 2007’s A Love Story! Only without a plot twist to support the chosen style.

Well, that movie was a box office hit so they probably wanted to employ the same technique and replicate the same commercial success. Or maybe the non-chronological events would distract the audience from the fact that this wasn’t any different from the normal kabitserye on Primetime Bida.

2. Angelica played Anne, a group director for the feminine hygiene division in an advertising agency. Her smart pitch for a sanitary napkin involved a recollection of the best days with her father with the slogan “I’m an Always Free girl because of my dad”. I wish this were an actual commercial because it would definitely crack me up and send me good vibes every time I would see it on TV.

As with any successful career woman in the Star Cinema universe, she was instantly cursed to have a troubled family life. Being accomplished at work apparently meant that she neglected her wife and mother duties at home. The lack of kitchen counter sex was reason enough for her husband Geoff (Dingdong Dantes) to cheat on her. Obviously, Geoff wasn’t an Always Free dad.

3. In one hilariously terrible scene, Anne was caught leaving early by her boss and the exact reason she gave was, “I’m the only wife of my husband. He is not just my husband, he is my life.” Her early out was approved.

4. When Paulo Avelino showed up as the third party Bryan, he was so white that I expected him to sparkle when he took his shirt off. I bet Anne could have made a killer slogan with that one (“Fresh Funda, para sa kutis Twilight”).

5. It was really hard to take the movie seriously when it was peppered with these lines that wanted to one-up the Quiapo dialogue in No Other Woman:

• “Mabuti pa ang mga isda hindi kelangan makipagkiskisan sa mga asawa.”

• “Ang itlog kapag hindi nalilimliman ay nabubulok. Ang pechay kapag hindi nadidiligan ay nalalanta.”

• “Ano ba ang sorry sa’yo? Isang lisensya para paulit-ulit mo akong lokohin at gaguhin?”

• “Wag mo akong gawing parausan kasi mawawalan ng silbi ang kabit mo!”

6. But wait, there’s more! As expected, there was a confrontation slash showdown with an equally-bitchy mistress played by Maricar Reyes. Women, you might want to write these down for future reference:

• “Akala ko naliligaw lang ako. Bakit andito ka sa Quezon City eh mas bagay ka sa Makati?”

• “Ayoko mahawa sa kadumihan mo. Wala akong dalang panglinis.”

• “Can you not fuck my husband?” (“Wag mo ‘kong ma-Terry-Terry!!”)

All of these lines were delivered with flared nostrils and in full nanlilisik ang mga mata mode. Madam Claudia Buenavista, isdatchu?

7. To be fair, there was a good story here somewhere. I have always wondered why women stay in abusive relationships for the sake of marriage or their kids (“When our men are weak, we have to be stronger”). Also, why do we always have this fantasy that cheaters will change their ways and that love will always lead them back to us? Why does our local justice system seem to heavily work in favor of men? Why does society still have this double standard in terms of cheating husbands vs cheating wives (not that they’re justifiable)?

If only the movie tried to explore these concepts further instead of reveling in the usual soap opera tropes.

8. Most of the performances here were okay so it was a welcome treat to see Mart Escudero (as the typical gay assistant) delivering the most crowd-pleasing line, “I don’t want your life Ma’m. Ayoko maging katulad n’yo na ginagawa kaming punching bag sa mga hanash n’yo sa buhay”, sabay walk-out. Also, Denise Laurel in Shakira extensions. Enough said.

9. At least the movie followed the general rule in ’90s melodrama: Lahat ng pwedeng mabasag, dapat mabasag. Goodbye kitchenware! So long wine bottle! You will be missed windshield!!

Rating: ★★☆☆☆