Monday, March 11, 2013

I Do Bidoo Bidoo (2012)

I Do Bidoo Bidoo (Chris Martinez, 2012)

Chris Martinez’s I Do Bidoo Bidoo is a film whose acclaim is more a product of sentiment than cinematic merit. Its plot is characterized by clichés. Its charm is but a product of nostalgia and novelty. It contents itself in reaping the rewards of its sheer existence, unwilling to push the envelope and to explore areas outside acknowledged comfort zones. It is the kind of crowd-pleaser that is satisfied to exist for the current clamor of a crowd whose addiction to anything from the past has turned into something that resembles more a fad than anything else.

It is quite unfortunate, really. Martinez is perhaps one of the more consistent and reliable screenwriters actively working today. He not only has a gift for humor that transcends genders and social classes, he also has the knack for framing that amiable humor with concepts and storylines that are outrageously unique. However, I Do Bidoo Bidoo seems to be the black sheep in Martinez’s writing credits. It lacks the ingenuity and wit Martinez usually embellishes his screenplays with. Instead, Martinez insists on merely reworking the very tired storyline of young lovers separated by class and family into a musical that makes use of the popular songs of the Apo Hiking Society to hopefully inject color to a hopelessly colorless narrative.

The erstwhile feud between the Polotan and Fuentebella families started when Rock Polotan (Sam Concepcion) and Tracy Fuentebella (Tippy Dos Santos) suddenly decide to get married. In compliance with Philippine pre-wedding traditions, the Polotans, a humble family sustained by the meager royalties earned from the one hit song of patriarch Pol (Ogie Alcasid) and the income from the catering services of matriarch Rosie (Eugene Domingo), decide to pay the Fuentebellas, a wealthy family suffering from the deteriorating relationship between patriarch Nick (Gary Valenciano) and matriarch Elaine (Zsazsa Padilla). As expected, the visit goes awry, creating much tension between the two families, forcing the soon-to-be-wed lovers to do all they can to fight for their love.

Martinez, presumably inspired from the convolutedly plotted and melodramas with too-convenient endings that have plagued and continue to plague Philippine television and film and the forgettably light-hearted, sadly light-headed, and atrociously manic stagings and filming of Mamma Mia!, crafts a story that treads no new ground. Its insights to cross-class relationships are slight. Its examinations of such psyches are skin deep, overpowered by the need to be nothing more than a fleeting piece of entertainment. Fortunately, Martinez’s stylized humor is still in display, especially when he exaggerates the immense gaps between social classes (the Polotans are greeted into Fuentebella mansion by the pirouetting maids who respond in unison), homosexual longing (John Lapuz, in a cameo role as a karaoke host, tearfully expressing the possible future of Rock’s best friend and closeted admirer), and other well-observed realities.

The music, which is supposed to be the film’s strongest suit, is underwhelming. Martinez sets up the songs in a predictable fashion, preparing the scenes with dialogue or circumstances that would logically lead to the appropriate Apo Hiking Society hit. The songs used are those indisputable classics, songs that are incessantly played in cabs and jeepneys around Metro Manila and sung by frustrated singers and wasted lovers in karaoke bars. However, most of the songs were arranged to make them sound dated. They have become shockingly draped with excessive embellishments, exposing how the song’s success is really so intimately intertwined with the sincere and simple singing voices of the original singers. Dramatically belted out by the film’s cast of gifted singers, the songs lose a certain quality, perhaps the very personal meaning of the songs, the true reason why such music has lived longer than expected. The film has turned them into trite novelties.

I Do Bidoo Bidoo has a very specific charm. It is a charm so specific, it tends to go bland, to immediately wear off, to tarnish to those immune to it. To the rest, the film is sure to entertain, the same way a variety show would momentarily entertain before its pleasures are replaced by the next television spectacle. It lacks the elements that would make it linger for a little more time, as it tends to be purposely simplistic, harking to a need of a certain audience clamoring for blunt entertainment and a worldview where love is inexplicably the center of the universe. Sure, its optimism is truly a joy. But its lack of ambition is an annoyance.

(Cross-published in Twitch.)

Monday, March 04, 2013

A Moment in Time (2013)

A Moment in Time (Emmanuel Palo, 2013)

Emmanuel Palo’s A Moment in Time is an exercise in barefaced mediocrity. There is absolutely nothing in the film that exhibits any effort from the filmmakers to be anything other than fodder. Like an overgrown child who is unable to free himself of his parents’ smothering care, the film desperately sticks to formula, inexplicably afraid of exploring new ground. Sadly, the formula has been used and reused to the point of tedium. The characters are nothing but predictable reincarnations of the countless perfect men and women whose convoluted backgrounds have temporarily separated them from their fated loves and in turn, bored their audiences to tears. While the trend nowadays is to reinvent the wheel, to tweak the formula to at least feel a bit fresh, Palo stubbornly insists on yawn-worthy safety.

Perhaps, he thinks he can fool his audience with for cosmetics. He does situate a good part of the humdrum love story in Amsterdam where its lovers can chase each other around in bicycles against vistas littered with tulip fields and windmills. Unfortunately, the foreign city is nothing but a stage. Its gorgeous vistas, famous spots and cultural details are nothing more but empty props, hardly different from the nauseating gloss, the vapid sentimental score, and the hammy acting that identify the film as just another one of those romances that are pretty in the outside but are drab in the inside.

The story is miserably flat. It concerns the eventual relationship of Patrick (Coco Martin), a struggling artist, and Jillian (Julia Montes), the musically-inclined daughter of a very wealthy couple. They meet in a commuter train, where Jillian stalks her crush from school, and Patrick chances upon her and instantly falls for her, prompting him to paint portraits of her all over the walls of Manila. After a handful of coincidental meetings, they finally fall in love with each other, but not without the challenges brought about by Jillian’s worrying parents and the looming revelation regarding the accident of Patrick’s mother which eventually killed her.

Martin, whose expressive face used to be Brillante Mendoza’s canvass for his various portrayals of tortured morality, succumbs to being voluntarily cheapened by blatant commercialism. Given a character that is too two-dimensional to be explored, his interpretation of being romantic has been duly limited to either being an embarrassing creep or a reprehensible sadist. Burdened by an unimaginative script that overdoes the fantasy-driven tone of escapist cinema, Martin comes off as morbidly dishonest, not exactly the proper character one roots for in romantic movies. While he manages to make his teary-eyed stares into nothingness evoke a certain pain and longing, he mouths his lines with the earnestness of an obvious swindler, making Montes’ earnest efforts to reciprocate the attention absolutely confounding.

As with all commercial romances, A Moment in Time dwells too much in the convolutions of a relationship that is really not worth telling. The conflicts have the sheen of depth and gravity, but are ultimately betrayed by a resolution that is all too easy and convenient. In the end, the emotion one feels is not akin to love or any of its other manifestations. It is bewilderment and confusion. It is frustration. After all the effort of filmmakers, some of whom share credits in this film, to raise the bar in filmmaking and film watching, films like A Moment in Time are still produced, and worse, released to further dumb down the mainstream audience.

(Cross-published in Twitch.)