MOVIE REVIEW: JUST A STRANGER (Jason Paul Laxamana, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Just a Stranger:

1. Sobrang tagal na pala since my last confession. (Mababasa ito ng nanay ko kaya, Sorry ma, I’m not proud of it.) Feeling ko sa haba ng listahan ng kasalanan na ikukumpisal ko, baka mauna pa matapos ang Probinsyano bago ang pag-uusap namin ni Father.

Eh paano pa kung kasing-chismoso siya ng pari dun sa simbahan ni Mae (Anne Curtis) na nagpa-kuwento ng bawat detalye ng adulterous affair niya with Jekjek (Marco Gumabao)? Yung inabot sila ng halos dalawang oras kasi kelangan niya talaga malaman kung ilang beses nag-sex yung mga cheater bago maka-prescribe ng penance (one Hail Mary ba ang norm for every instance?).

Tapos kelangan may comic relief na sisilipin niya kung gaano talaga kaganda si cougar Mae na nahumaling sa kanya ang isang teenager. At para mas nakakatawa, may reaction siya na “My God! Oh shit, sorry!” na feeling ko katumbas ng isang Sorrowful Mystery. Okay ka lang ba, Father?

(Pero salamat sa refresher on the difference between mortal and venial sins, I guess.)

2. Bilang dating president ng Reyster-Ems Fans Club – Las Piñas Chapter, alam ko na ka-love team ni Anne sa T.G.I.S. si Chubi del Rosario (who was several batches lower sa akin sa Zobel) so parang ang hirap maniwala na she was playing somebody around my age. Common naman for actors to play roles na way older or younger than their actual (or screen) age pero may binabagayan din siguro.

Hindi ko talaga matanggap na 40ish na si Anne dito at doble ng edad ni Marco (na mukha namang mid-20s). Malayong-malayo sa casting ng recent May-December love affairs na kakapanood ko lang from Glorious (Angel Aquino-Tony Labrusca) to Belle Douleur (Mylene Dizon-Kit Thompson) to Malamaya (Sunshine Cruz-Enzo Pineda).

Ang off lang nung tinawag si Mae na “tita” at tinawag niya namang “totoy” si Jekjek kasi papasa pa silang halos magkaedad (does that make me “lolo” levels ganern?). Hindi ba available si Alice Dixson?

3. Maliban sa kabit factor, selling point ng pelikula ang promised steamy love scenes na hindi ko naman masyadong naramdaman. Sobrang hot nina Anne and Marco (as in yung sexual attraction sa kanila transcends any gender; their characters even shamelessly described themselves as “attractive, winnable, charismatic”) pero parang walang heat or passion kapag magkasama na sila sa kama (or their chosen place of torjakan).

Konting halik, konting himas, tapos na agad ang eksena at pawisan na sila parehong nakahiga. I didn’t expect naman na dapat super graphic, extended, or gratuitous ang sex scenes pero at the very least ramdam yung electricity between them as soon as their bodies touched, diba? Yung parang kelangan mo ng cold shower para mahimasmasan katulad nung pagkatapos ko mapanood ang Unfaithful.

Pero wala talaga eh. Baka dun pumapasok na para nga silang mag-tita. (Btw, ang weird nung “Mobile Legends” reference.)

4. Given naman na magaling umarte si Anne. Kita mo yung loneliness sa mata niya bilang trophy wife kaya nagawa niyang lokohin ang kanyang asawa (Edu Manzano). (Side note: Bakit nga ba hindi issue ang age gap sa atin kapag lalaki ang mas matanda?)

May hint of repressed naughtiness din siya kaya madalas mag-give in sa temptations. Yung restrained niya na pag-iyak sa balcony scenes were impressive. Also, parang siya lang ang kayang magdala nung glamorous alta look pa rin habang nakasakay sa sidecar with her oversized abaniko.

Alam ko they were going for realism in terms of ugly crying (as in uhog levels ni Tita Viola Davis) pero nagtawanan (at nandiri?) ang mga tao nung nag-stretch na parang cheese sa pizza ang laway niya habang umiiyak sa kitchen. Not a fan of her acting din sa eulogy dream sequence.

5. On the other hand, okay lang ang performance ni Marco. Hindi naman siya nilamon (even literally) ni Anne. Medyo malamya lang talaga ang acting niya when the role required an immature, feeling alpha-male boy. Yung kelangan ng conviction ang pag-overcompensate niya sa sarili with lines like “You guys can take turns on me, I can go all night” kahit alam mo lalabasan talaga siya after 30 seconds. At least believable siya magsuot ng brief.

(Also, I’m officially declaring 2019 as the Year of the Cinematic Pwet.)

6. Tbh medyo nagulat ako sa output ni Jason Paul Laxamana this time kasi maayos siya na writer at storyteller. Yung tipong aawayin ka niya on social media pero wala kang malait masyado sa body of work niya kasi usually nga malinis talaga ang mga gawa niya (my favorites are still Mercury is Mine and Bakwit Boys).

Dito parang ang sloppy ng screenplay pati technical aspects. May sub-plot about Mae’s fibromyalgia na walang pinatunguhan. May eksena na nagtanggal siya ng heels in full view of other guests kahit sobrang sophisticated ng character niya. Minsan hindi ko alam kung gusto nilang maging discreet or mahuli ng ibang tao (part ba ng thrill yung naglaplapan sila sa kotseng wala namang tint?). Bigla na lang hindi na issue ang age gap nung dulo.

Pero ang worst for me was the ending. Grabe lang yung cringe factor dun na may linyahang “Who are you?” tapos sumagot si Mae ng “No one…” at nakisabay ang buong sinehan sa pagsabi ng “I’m just a stranger”. Juskopong mahabagin.

7. Cherie Gil was onscreen for a good five minutes and ended up as the most memorable character. Eksenadora ang tita mo talaga. Oh wait, don’t call her tita pala!

(At teka, naguluhan ako nung nilandi ni Edu si Cherie kasi apparently he was “into women (his) own age” pero si Mae ang asawa niya. Ano ba talaga ang type niya?)

8. Irita ako dun sa girlfriend na Febbie simula nung fake surprise scene niya (na ewan ko paano siya nagtago sa likod ng parents ni Jekjek) hanggang dun sa chaka niya na pag-iyak sa church. Mas bagay siguro yung girl sa role ni Diablita (the doll).

9. Ang pinaka-suspension of disbelief talaga para sa akin dito (maliban sa supposed age gap) ay yung super rich kid ni Jekjek kasi sinustentuhan siya ng tatay niya para tumira sa Tokyo, Washington, at Lisbon tapos ang suot niya lagi na undies eh Bench Body.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

THE GREAT HACK (Karim Amer, Jehane Noujaim, 2019)

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So the internet gods are listening in on my private conversations with friends? That the microphones and cameras on my laptop and smartphone are picking up details that create my data profile for social media sites to accurately predict my behaviour and interests? It wasn’t merely a coincidence that after I mentioned a planned trip to Tokyo next year, my Facebook feed immediately got bombarded by sponsored Klook ads offering discounted tour packages? Oh, please!! We all signed up for this. We can’t make our lives public on the worldwide web and then fear that strangers know way too much about us, right? It’s time to admit that we’re basically living in a supersized Black Mirror episode.

Although this documentary didn’t contain a lot of new information (especially if one had been following all the discussions related to Brexit, the Trump campaign, Cambridge Analytica, and Facebook-gate), I was still fascinated by the thought that these so-called villains preyed on the “persuadables” and successfully swayed them to their desired results. Will that stop me from taking the next “Which Sex and the City character are you” quiz? My Miranda side is screaming “DON’T!!”, but I’m sure my gullible Charlotte side wins in the end.

Rating: ★★★☆☆