A Review of Cathy Garcia-Molina's Miss You Like Crazy
By Francis Joseph A. Cruz
Watching a Star Cinema-produced romance is comparable to eating a McDonald's hamburger. The two activities, depending on one's tolerance for junk food, elicit one predictable response: momentary elation. Morgan Spurlock, in his hilarious yet disturbing documentary Super Size Me (2004), has taught us that the McDonald's burger is specifically engineered to be elating enough to be addictive. Star Cinema makes romances like McDonalds makes burgers. The film studio follows a strict formula, putting together the most ideal of love teams in the most un-ideal of romantic relationships with the most magically conceived of happy endings. The result is assured box-office success. The result of that result is a stubborn and artistically-numbing adherence to the formula.
If Star Cinema romances are McDonald's burgers, then director Cathy Garcia-Molina is arguably the most effective fry cook in the studio's roster of fry cooks which includes Laurenti Dyogi (And I Love You So (2009), tepid and underwhelming), Rory Quintos (Love Me Again (2009), overindulgent yet inconsequential), Jose Javier Reyes (When Love Begins (2008), frustratingly cluttered), and Jade Castro (My Big Love (2008), disappointing and uneven), among many others. Her effectivity, I guess, stems from the absolute lack of resistance to the mechanicality of her role in these productions. She understands the studio’s goal of profit, accedes to the studio’s restrictive processes, and proceeds to create delightful farces that only reinforce a cultural need for escape. In other words, she does what a fry cook does best: flip burger patties, toast burger buns, and prepare a hamburger that comes closest to perfection.
Her films, from the portion she directed in Bcuz of U (2004), a triptych of bubbly but inconsequential love stories, to A Very Special Love (2008), a fluffy and admittedly enjoyable unlikely romance between an ordinary employee and her rich, handsome yet difficult boss, are all charming confections, delicious enough to make you forget, even for just about an hour, that outside the darkness of the theaters, there are outstanding bills to pay, nagging wives to please, and other pressing problems to face. Perhaps Garcia-Molina’s most charming film is still You Are The One (2006), an undemanding but colorful story about a U.S. embassy official who is looking for his real parents and a government employee who is wrestling with self-confidence who become entangled in a whirlwind love affair that ends in an expectedly happy note. One More Chance (2008), Star Cinema’s attempt to expand its notion of romantic relationships to include something as banally realistic as break-ups, the emotional pain it induces to ex-lovers, and the sacred three-month rule, signaled Garcia-Molina as a director who aside from visualizing the occasional joyful tingles of falling in love, can also communicate the pangs of a recent heartache.
Miss You Like Crazy, Garcia-Molina’s latest, is just another addition to the director’s list of near-perfect burgers. While it is entertaining and at times, intriguing, it remains unremarkable probably because nothing, with the exceptions of the little tweaks in the formula-formed narrative and the out-of-the-country setting, differentiates it from any of the director’s previous works.
Alan (John Lloyd Cruz), who is falling out of love with his controlling girlfriend (Maricar Reyes), initiates a love affair with Mia (Bea Alonzo), a not-so-sassy girl he meets during his daily commutes aboard the Pasig River ferry. As it turns out, Alan and Mia’s irrefutable connection (which apparently erupts into an impromptu lovemaking session inside Alan’s rustic unfurnished riverside abode) is no match to fate. A few years later, the two ill-fated lovebirds meet again, this time, in Kuala Lumpur. Alan remains hopeful that he will be able to find Mia, fix the mistakes of the past, and win her back into his arms. Mia, on the other hand, has a loving boyfriend (Gerald Hans Isaac). Despite the flurry of lovely emotions (as cinematically represented by Erik Santos’ baritone suddenly bursting to the tune of I Miss You Like Crazy to accompany the two leads’ reunion beneath the metaphoric Petronas Towers) that immediately come into play with the acknowledgment that a fragment of that complicated love affair still survives, it seems that human effort (we later learn that Alan has been visiting and revisiting Kuala Lumpur just to search for Mia) is still powerless to fate. In fact, all that Alan had to do was to wait, and save himself from the aches, stress, and frustrations of doing everything for nothing.
Fate does not leave a lot of room for shocks and surprises. With fate as the primary motivator of all its love stories, Star Cinema is unabashed about the predictability of its film offerings. After all, there is comfort in predictability. In a country where the norm is discomfort, comfort sells. Thus, McDonald’s, Star Cinema and other similar peddlers of shallow comforts do well in this country. They offer what reality can’t, a release, no matter how temporary, from the unpredictability of life. Having tried my best to rationalize why Star Cinema films do so well and accept the fact that there is absolutely nothing I can write or do to force a corporation to steer away from what gives it the most profit, I still hope to see a Star Cinema romance that would tackle unfated love. Truth be told, burgers, no matter how masterful the fry cook cooks them, are still junk food. I believe the same goes for movies.
(First published in Philippine Free Press, 20 March 2010)