THE GREATEST SHOWMAN (Michael Gracey, 2017)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Greatest Showman:

1. It had been over a year already and I still couldn’t forget the fabulous opening sequence of La La Land. Another Day of Sun fully encapsulated the reason why I really love musicals. I’d always imagine myself stuck along EDSA during Friday night rush hour traffic and I would get out of my car and burst into song while commuters inside cars and buses would sing a chorus and dance along with me. Why would there be any road rage when I could simply belt out my six octave range (bye Mariah!) and shimmy with the takatak boys? Our lives as a series of music videos would definitely be one sweet sweet fantasy, right?

2. As a musical, Showman was an enjoyable treat with its dazzling set pieces, spectacular choreography (that rooftop dance sequence with the dancing kumots!), and soaring sugar pop melodies. My favorite number was Rewrite the Stars with Zac Efron and Zendaya flying through the air on ropes, making it the most dangerous flirtation since I joined (and ultimately deleted) Tinder five years ago.

I also really liked the powerhouse performance of Rebecca Ferguson in Never Enough, until 1) I discovered that it really wasn’t her singing (it was actually dubbed by The Voice contestant Loren Allred), and 2) I realized immediately after that she was pining for a married man. In a culture fascinated with kabit movies where viewers enjoy seeing these women get their comeuppance, I wonder how many Pinoys actually loved this (in context) mistress song.

3. I wasn’t a huge fan of Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables (a singing Russell Crowe scarred me for life), but amidst the distractingly tight close-ups was an undeniably terrific performance by Hugh Jackman. He delivered again here as P.T. Barnum, serving as a ringleader to his troop of circus oddities and trying to stay true on the promise of being the greatest showman.

I actually liked him better in this movie because he was just more effective as a performer than a singer (check his Tony Awards hosting work on YouTube!). I also had a good laugh when the young Barnum got caught stealing a loaf of bread, the very reason why Jean Valjean turned into prisoner 24601.

4. I wish there was more of a story here to latch on to. Sure, I bawled my eyes out during the A Million Dreams song and also when the family moved into their mansion and one of the daughters received her ballet slippers, but everything else just felt very basic.

Did we really need two langit-lupa love stories when we didn’t even know much about the circus members (I couldn’t even recall any of their names!)? Even American Horror Story: Freak Show was able to bring life to its characters (sorry, but Kathy Bates would always be the Bearded Lady to me) and went beyond the “They’re humans, too!” message. When the group belted out the supposedly cathartic This Is Me song, it felt more like a production number on Glee rather than a poignant anthem about celebrating diversity.

Wait, did I just sound very much like a “theater critic who can’t find joy in a theater”?

5. I also felt a bit sad that the movie just glossed on some seemingly important topics, especially the one regarding exploitation. I wish we had more insights to this so-called celebration of humanity where people with disabilities weren’t treated any differently from animals in a zoo.

As a kid, I remembered going to a local perya and paying Php20 to watch a Lalaking Alimango (billed as a half-human, half-crab, but in reality was a man with underdeveloped arms and limbs and had pincer-like growths instead of fingers). I cried out of fear and also out of pity because they made him swim in this tub of dirty water.

I guess the idea of tackling freaks as entertainment was just too heavy for this movie that only aimed to be a feel-good one, ending with Jackman joyously riding an elephant in the city to meet his loving family. And after that, all was right with the world.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

MY CANDIDATE (Quark Henares, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on My Candidate:

1. This would have made an effective Perception vs. Reality meme, a political rom-com that perceived itself to be incredibly hilarious but in reality barely mustered any laughs from its duped audience. Its strained humor was corny to say the least and lost all the welcome whimsy that director Quark Henares effortlessly displayed in Keka. If it got one thing right, it was that the local elections (and all the surrounding hoopla, cringe-worthy campaign ads and all) were a joke.

2. Shaina Magdayao played Billie Pono, a life coach slash communications expert slash public relations adviser that I would never hire if ever I went crazy and decided to run for public office. Think of her as a hip, younger, less-fashionable Olivia Pope meets a clueless Sandra Bullock in Our Brand Is Crisis.

Her idea of feminism was wearing a peek-a-boo black bra under a sheer top while teaching other women how to be prim and proper and land a decent job (sorry, I forgot to mention that this feminist also helped a horndog celebrity prepare his speech after cheating with a married woman, then promptly lied about it when she said “Trabaho ko na palabasin ang tunay na pagkatao ng kliyente ko”). She also had the audacity to call out other women that dressed like pampams to work. She never once dressed professionally (she’s hip remember?) while working for Congressman Sonny Suarez (Derek Ramsay), but would be the first to discuss the importance of styling to look respectable and gain people’s trust.

3. The list didn’t end there, though. Said Congressman was running for a Senate seat so Billie invited him in a noisy public bar to have a private discussion, got him wasted until he sang Teeth’s Laklak on stage, prepped his staff through a hiphop explosion technique and by rapping Legit Misfitz’s Jabongga…wait, shouldn’t she be a coach on The Voice instead?

4. The role of Billie could have been saved by a genuine comedian, but Shaina just wasn’t the best person for it. I adored her in Four Sisters and a Wedding where everything just felt more natural.

On a different note, I noticed that she had really nice hands, the type that never did laundry her whole life. Also, I immediately knew I was going straight to hell because the very first thing that popped in my head when she appeared onscreen was the thought of her killer kepslock.

5. Some of the lines here almost triggered my epileptic seizures:

• Congressman grieving his father’s death: “Siguro naman gets ng mga tao bakit malungkot ako.” (I guess, but di ko gets why you used gets.)

• Congressman on initially meeting Billie: “Babae ka pala? Akala ko ba Billy?” (2016 na po Congressman.)

Of course, that prompted Billie to dish out the age-old explanation: “Ang tatay ko kasi matagal na gusto magkaanak ng lalaki blah blah blah…”

• Congressman’s staff on his ex: “Para siyang tulo na ngumangatngat sa ano mo.” (What?! No matter how much I disliked my ex, the worst I would call the person would be a heartburn. Disclaimer: I don’t hate any of my exes. I love them all. In a friendly ex way, of course.)

• Opponent Congressman Vera Sanchez (Iza Calzado who brought so much class on such a thankless role) on poaching Billie: “I’m hiring you because you effectively turned his campaign around” and then a minute later said “Now is the best time to switch kasi bumababa na ang numbers niya”. (Huh? If his numbers were dropping, didn’t that make Billie a failure?)

6. Congressman Suarez had three people in his campaign staff and all of them were crazy (including an incredibly annoying and screechy chief of staff played by Nico Antonio; Tolayts, what happened?). He didn’t seem to belong in any political party. He gave out boxes of Century Tuna as relief goods. His favorite song was Mambobola (ooh, ZsaZsing fan!). I bet the audience was really rooting for him to win.

7. Thank God for Ricci Chan channeling Bretman Rock. I laughed out loud every time he showed up. Ditto for Ketchup Eusebio as the filthy roommate with a gigantic member (obviously inspired by Rhys Ifans’ Spike in Notting Hill).

8. Wait, weren’t there twelve slots in the Senate race? Why were these two battling it out like it was the Presidential post? Rappler even had a debate with just the two of them and Ces Drilon had a special election count covering the tight race for the number 12 slot per region. I actually wished there was a tie so they could have settled it with a coin toss. Now that would have been as funny as Derek with a handful of hair.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆