Wednesday, July 11, 2018

I Love You, Hater


Joko (Joshua Garcia) lies to his family pretending that he is working in New York after an illegal recruiter runs away with his money. Zoe (Julia Barretto) works hard to get recognition from her father who denies her existence as an illegitimate child. When social media mogul Sasha (Kris Aquino) begins her search for a new assistant, Joko inadvertently gets the job after exchanging smart graphic design quips with her during a chance encounter on the company elevator. Being a persistent fan and believing that the position is her destiny, Zoe challenges the decision, her being blunt catching the attention of her potential boss. When she reiterates how their target audience mainly consists of women and gay men, a desperate and cash-strapped Joko lies again, pretending to be homosexual and, thus, qualified for the role. Sasha decides to put both of them under probation for three months, after which she will choose who is better suited for the job.

Sasha as the social media entrepreneur is pretty much who Kris Aquino is today, turning to online media after calling it quits with network television. She has two main subplots: the irrelevant daughter; the ex-wife who has "already" moved on. When Sasha tells everyone ad nauseam that she is happy with her life and that she has already moved on from her break-up with her ex-husband, it feels more like a plea for you to believe her, or better yet, an appeal from herself to herself to believe in whatever it is that she is telling herself.

Since the line between actress and role is blurred and given the constant barrage of everything Kris Aquino that you have to go through every day on social media, it makes you want to think. Is this really a Star Cinema movie or a mere extension of the @krisaquino Instagram account? Kris Aquino in the horror genre is fine. For some strange reason, her constipated screams while being terrorized by the paranormal somehow translate to good box office returns. Kris Aquino in a comedy is tricky for the mere reason that she is not funny. This is why she always needs a gimmick for the material to be able to pull through, and that gimmick always tends to be her personal life.

Kris Aquino doesn’t play characters in comedies. She IS the character, just with a different name. What does this mean for I Love You, Hater then? It means that the narrative is overshadowed by its star, which is rather unfortunate because the storyline has a lot to tell. The younger millennial angle, for one, is a good case study on how today's generation copes with the struggles of everyday life. How is it like to be a working millennial in this day and age? You see a lot of examples in the movie, but it is almost always hijacked by Kris Aquino's abrupt slow-mo entrances and perpetually TV commercial-ready intonation.

Joko is the stereotypical breadwinner who just wants what's best for his family. Zoe is the slightly rebellious unwanted child whose way to get rid of her angst is to gain recognition from a person who just won't give it to her. In the end, it is just the same old tried and tested formula for a mainstream romantic comedy, blessed with Kris Aquino's presence.

The material also gives you a glimpse of how powerful social media has become through the years as a tool for marketing and propaganda. A five-minute video on YouTube going viral and getting a million views now trumps having a giant billboard along EDSA. Providing a peek behind the scenes of content creation, the narrative is a perfect reminder that life has gone primarily digital nowadays, and whoever makes an investment in familiarizing oneself with such innovations can and will reap tangible benefits via image manipulation.

As for the acting, Barretto and Garcia might as well be the second coming of Claudine Barretto and Rico Yan, the difference being Garcia's acting style leaning closer to that of John Lloyd Cruz. In any case, the chemistry is there. The versatility is there. The fan base also seems to be there. The two get to play around with what they are given and deliver just the right amount of feels expected for their scenes. In time and with the right projects, these two have the potential to go far. Here's hoping they don't get sidetracked again in their next feature.

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