Thursday, November 30, 2023

Asian Persuasion


Even Filipino-Americans fall out of love. After years of marriage and sharing an adorable daughter, Mick de los Santos (Dante Basco) and wife Avery (KC Concepcion) call it quits, culminating in the signing of their divorce papers that legally oblige him to provide alimony, which he probably couldn’t afford. After a night of booze and stimulants with his best friend Caspian (Kevin Kreider), Mick comes up with an outrageous idea. Since he knows his ex-wife inside out anyway, why not create a profile for her on a dating app and set her up to date and marry the best match? In the end, she ends up happily remarried and he won’t have an alimony problem anymore, right? Enter successful but socially-awkward Wall Street yuppie Lee (Paolo Montalban) who ends up being okay with the scheme after five minutes of getting upset over being catfished. Will Avery and Lee fall in love or will Mick just eventually snap out of denial and realize that he just wants his ex-wife back?

Asian Persuasion is actually funny. There are several scenes that had me chuckling a little bit too loud. The premise is unoriginal yet intriguing, even though the predictability of the plot just grows stronger and stronger with every passing minute. We’ve already encountered this formula before in every medium possible. The highschool bet. The fraternity dare. This time around we have two middle-aged Fil-Ams trying to make sense of life in New York. We already know what happens in this kind of storyline.

The characterization is also quite weird, although the narrative makes sure to point out that the characters are just that way to ease our suspension of disbelief. For a slacker who needs to find funding for his alimony dilemma, Mick sure has all the time in the world scheming instead of being an adult and working his ass off, which he eventually realizes in the end. For a successful Wall Street professional, Lee comes across as too desperate to actually team up with a guy who catfished him, even though such guys do exist in real life.

And this is why we focus on the other aspects. As a bro comedy, there is palpable rapport between Basco and Kreider. In fact, Kreider seems to have done his assignment a little too well that he ends up overshadowing his castmate in many scenes. His subplot with the French girl amputee is not totally fleshed out but seems to be more interesting than the main plot involving Mick and Avery. I’d gladly watch a sitcom starring those two side characters.

Why is a romantic comedy evidently designed to hop on the Hollywood “representation” bandwagon being marketed to Filipinos IN THE PHILIPPINES, where the main driving force to get people into cinemas are love teams and not social movements such as diversity which will just eventually be lost to the Filipino viewing public? To the ordinary Pinoy moviegoer, this movie will always be that rom-com with actors they barely recognize, with the obvious exception of Concepcion who, arguably, doesn’t even have that huge a local fan base anymore. Perhaps this film will find a better audience in Fil-Ams in the States?

Why am I being such a party pooper and why are we bringing this issue up? Don’t get me wrong, I actually enjoyed Asian Persuasion. It just feels rather sad because no matter how enjoyable this film might be and in spite of the marketing push online, the decision to market it here just feels ill-advised. I was the only one watching in a cinema with a 150 seating capacity, which further highlights the movie’s biggest dilemma: finding an audience, especially nowadays when movie tickets are just too damn expensive. Having said so, perhaps more success could be had in the streaming arena, should the film end up there somehow. Netflix, maybe?

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