Thursday, March 11, 2021

Love or Money


Leon (Coco Martin) and Angel (Angelica Panganiban) end up having a one night stand the very same night she catches her boyfriend dining with a pregnant woman at the restaurant where he works. She disappears the next morning never to be seen again, until the two of them cross paths again in Dubai three years later. Now driving a Ferrari and headlining her own events company, Angel is the mistress and soon-to-be wife of a possessive dirty old man. Leon, on the other hand, is still trying to make ends meet as he juggles several jobs to send money back home. Sparks fly and old flames are rekindled, but their differences when it comes to priorities in life do not guarantee a smooth-sailing relationship. As her soon-to-be husband’s divorce is finalized meaning she will no longer be a mistress, she is forced to choose between love or money.

Cliché, but given the current situation and lack of new releases it is still better than nothing. But then again, there’s simply nothing that distinguishes this film from the formulaic romantic comedies Star Cinema used to release prior to the pandemic. Had this been released in pre-Corona times, this would have easily been a box office hit, not because it is refreshing, but because it follows the tried and tested formula through and through. In short, one of those movies that you will not remember anymore after a few years or so.

As for the plot, it starts off as your usual romantic comedy, giving Martin and Panganiban a chance to flex their comedy chops. As the story wades through endless tropes, the tone shifts to tragic, as if we really needed yet another Romeo and Juliet narrative. To be fair, though, the world will never be totally rid of such storylines, but at least try to differentiate the material from those that have come before it. Moulin Rouge, for example, did it with flashy song and dance. Love or Money decides to go for the OFW angle.

The problem with that is in Star Cinema’s filmography alone, you will find perhaps a dozen movies or more that already tackled this, some with basically the same story and style, and one even set in the same city. Remember that Aga-Claudine-John Lloyd starrer bluntly named Dubai? If you want something more recent and closer to home, then we can always refer to Hello, Love, Goodbye, Star Cinema’s last memorable box office juggernaut before the pandemic, which won over audiences and critics alike.

Love or Money will probably never have that distinction. Maybe we can blame it on either the utter lack of chemistry between the leads or the tired OFW love story. It is part of our culture, yes, but for it to be memorable, it must add something new to the discourse at least. Perhaps the one good thing about this movie is its setting, with the cinematographer taking full advantage of Dubai’s bright lights and cityscapes. The drone shots are plain awesome, but then again you can also see that in a travelogue or any well-curated travel Vlog on YouTube.

With the changing landscape of film and the rise of streaming as an alternative to going to the cinema, it might be a good step for ABS-CBN and Star Cinema to divide their movies into two categories: one set for the big screen; the other for online streaming. Think of it as a local version of Netflix where they can hit their paid subscription targets with movies like this, which we really would not mind seeing on a TV screen at the comforts of our own living room. It’s not a downgrade, but rather just part of cinema’s constantly evolving future.

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