Saturday, May 14, 2011

In the Name of Love

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

Ex-dancer Emman/Garry (Aga Mulach) builds his life anew after a life gone awry in Japan by opening a dance studio in his home town, just in time for open auditions for Dance Instructors for the Governor's Ball celebrating the engagement of the governor's son Dylan (Jake Cuenca) to ex-pole dancer turned kept woman Mercedes (Angel Locsin). Their paths eventually cross resulting in a complicated love triangle.

Olivia Lamasan could not have started the movie on a more thrilling note. The opening credits roll with emphasis on certain objects (a music box, a yin yang necklace, and a toy robot, among others) which immediately sparks curiosity. The said items reappear in various moments of the movie to trigger some flashbacks. What follows is a tense airport scene accentuated by an adrenaline-inducing musical score. Seriously, is Lamasan planning to give Chito Roño a run for his money? Angel Locsin does not appear until after ten minutes or so, which makes you think twice if you are seeing the right movie based on the poster and the trailer. The said screen time is instead given to Aga Mulach’s character in an effort to partially establish his backstory, including a family related subplot that is immediately, but not unceremoniously dismissed to give way to the love angle.

You might just dismiss the Japan scenes as unnecessary and only added to give a wonderful backdrop for the audience to ogle at (think Mt. Fuji), except that this is not the case for this movie. The scenes in Japan are strategically scattered all over the storyline to give you a break from the heavy drama unfolding within the main plot. They also give you a different perspective of the characters, an entirely different persona (in the case of Mercedes) from the ones you initially get to know.

The plot is presented in a non-linear way, which really helps in gradually revealing crucial information needed for dramatic effect later on. It is perhaps because of this kind of story telling that the movie effectively distances itself from previous Star Cinema offerings. Another Star Cinema Mulach starrer comes to mind: A Love Story. Another selling point is the acting. The typical Star Cinema romantic comedy usually involves showing of skin, a mushy storyline, and a throng of shrieking fan girls in the movie house to complete the experience. Here all three of the leads do show some skin, but only Cuenca would probably pass for a magazine centerfold shoot. Mulach and Locsin should consider losing some weight, but you just do not care about that after an hour or so.

Mulach’s abs have turned to flabs and his wrinkles will eventually multiply over time, but you have to give it to him. Guy could act. He nails all of his crying scenes in this movie. You actually could not pick just one as a favorite. There is that unique flashback scene where you just see him shed some tears as he looks at random photos while a separate audio track containing various dialogues from his past plays in the background. And then there is that confrontation scene at the studio which he totally dominates. His dancing is 50-50. He has the moves but somehow it seems a bit awkward, maybe also because of the extra weight. He actually makes fun of it once in a while as the story progresses.

Locsin is also gaining weight, but still mysteriously exudes a sexy aura evident throughout the movie. Her first full appearance is probably her weakest. The audience could not help but exclaim how big her thighs are. Her pole dancing is not that fluid and looks labored. Another weak acting point is the aforementioned confrontation scene, which, to reiterate, is totally owned by Mulach. In that particular scene you see vestiges of the “kunot-noo” school of acting she used to subscribe to, but in fairness to her she bounces back right after that with the revelation scene. A notable improvement in her acting would be the use of her eyes. You can just feel her character’s sorrow without her having to direct a word to anyone.

The ending is climactic. And yes, SOMEONE DIES. Guess who? The problem with the climax though is that it feels too calculated. Everything just takes so long to execute just so one character could get to intervene and affect the outcome of events. You would either love or hate the ending depending on how you love or hate the main characters.

To sum it all up, the movie is a breath of fresh air from all the formulaic romantic comedies Star Cinema has been producing lately. The feel of the movie is quite similar to Milan in that it is a love story for adults. You would not find a lot of “pa-cute” characters in here. In fact, the two leads are a bit deglamorized and far from the ideal characters you would want to root for in a movie. Locsin’s character in particular occasionally smokes and is either directly or indirectly alluded to as a whore from time to time. The story itself would work well as a soap opera given the complications brought about by the politics subplot, and that is another strong point of the movie. It seems like a telenovela but paced well-enough to fit everything under two hours. Dante Rivero's line serves as a concise summary for everything: "Hanggang kailan ka susugal sa mali?" In gambling you might lose. But who knows, you could also win.

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