Friday, September 18, 2015

Ex with Benefits

Despite him being a senior and her being a freshman, Adam (Derek Ramsay) and Arkisha (Coleen Garcia) do not really consider their age gap as an obstacle to their budding romance, so they hit it off right away anyway. But the pressure of medical school and everyday life in general would eventually take a toll on their relationship. And so, on the day of his make-or-break exam, she decides to walk away without even saying goodbye. A decade later, he is now a famous sports doctor while she is also considered successful in her career as a medical representative for a pharmaceutical company. What she does not know is that he is still in love with her, and what he does not know is that she has been sleeping with her clients to secure her position as top performer of the year. When she is asked to go after his endorsement for their newest painkiller, the two of them end up in bed. It then turns into a habit, or as they would like to call it: “Ex with benefits”.

Most romantic comedies from Star Cinema are formulaic and predictable. The love scenes would often be one of the highlights, heavily anticipated, and accompanied by an overbearing musical score. Here, sex is treated as it is: Sex. Not even ten minutes into the movie and we already see a lot of action care of the racy scenes between the two leads. They flirt at school. They roll under the sheets. It’s normal, and typical of a modern day couple, which makes it more relatable no matter what self-righteous hypocrites claim otherwise. But the problem with such plot device is that it could easily be abused, and there are many moments where they already come off as repetitive.

That medical representatives all over the country found it foul to be portrayed as promiscuous individuals is something that one could not really avoid. After all, the Arkisha character seems rather blasé about her methods as far as sales is concerned. Lest we forget, though, this is a fictional film originating from print material which is not necessarily of Pulitzer quality. Besides, it is far from being a generalization as you would also encounter three other med rep characters in the movie who do not really whore themselves around as an excuse for a good sales pitch. Chill, people! It’s a Star Cinema movie, for crying out loud.

Ramsay has made it past that obstacle of being the weakest link in his movies. He carries this film quite well, given Garcia’s newbie status. The fact that it earned a lot at the box office just goes to show that he is still a bankable actor. He also appears to be Viva’s go-to guy for roles like this, and since that production company regularly comes up with one or two movies from this genre on an annual basis, it is almost a guarantee that he would not be out of work. He might want to take on a new challenge, though. He does not have to go indie or anything, but rather just try out other roles that would prove his mettle as an actor. Perhaps he is looking up to the likes of Aga Muhlach who is notorious for being paired up with leading ladies half his age, but even that guy had to lie low at some point. The rom-com genre could only do so much for the longevity of an actor’s career.

Garcia is pretty and fresh faces on the big screen are always a welcome change, but the baby face might come as a disadvantage for other roles that require a more mature approach. Sometimes, you just have to look the part. For this movie, though, everything seems to fit perfectly well. The age gap between her and Ramsay is established early on and even incorporated into the story itself so there is really nothing weird about it. It looks like she is taking the Anne Curtis route, which could mean being stereotyped in such woman of the world roles. We would have to wait and see. For now, however, she does an okay job for her first outing as a leading lady. More acting workshops would not hurt either.

Romantic comedies often fail to add anything new to this saturated genre, so when another one comes out we already know what is going to happen. That is why more and more movies nowadays try to be all clever with their execution in order to make a difference. There is evidently a decent attempt here but somehow the similarities are still blatant. The constant reference to drugs and the pharmaceutical industry somehow reminds you of Love and Other Drugs, while the Adam character during the second half of the film is reminiscent of Bill Hader in Trainwreck, both being sports doctors and having a basketball player friend as a confidant. But despite all this, the film is still fun to watch, maybe because it does not take things too seriously.

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