Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Broken Hearts Trip


Reality show host Alfred (Christian Bables) spearheads a new TV show, putting together an ensemble of broken hearted gays to compete for a one million peso prize by completing challenges set all around the country. Mark (Petite) is left to take care of his boyfriend’s daughter after he abandons them. Ali (Marvin Yap) loses his restaurant and basically everything in his life after his foreigner boyfriend ditches him for another guy, sending him on a downward spiral. Bernie Varga (Iyah Mina) is a gay beauty pageant veteran who has never won a crown and is caught in a love triangle with his boyfriend and the boyfriend’s pregnant girlfriend. Alex (Andoy Ranay) is a go-getter executive who is scammed by his boylet, the total  amounting to five million pesos. Has-been matinee idol Jason (Teejay Marquez) aims to use the exposure to regain his career after falling out of grace for being outed against his will.

Was this film sponsored by the Department of Tourism? Those drone shots of Kawasan Falls and the attractions that followed were gorgeous! The best way to describe Broken Hearts Trip is if the DOT and that defunct reality show Extra Challenge had a baby, and the baby came out of the womb waving a rainbow flag. It’s too bad that the movie already disappeared from cinemas after just the third day of the festival. Is this movie fun? Yes. Is it worth the 420 peso cinema ticket and the 1,400 peso roundtrip Grab fare to and from Ayala Malls Manila Bay which is one of only seven cinemas left in the metro still playing it? Probably not.

And that is one of Broken Hearts Trip’s problems. The only faces you will recognize here are Jaclyn Jose’s and Bables'. The former only appears for the first 15 minutes and later on as the credits roll. It is only the latter who is visible all throughout because of his role as the host of the reality show. While Bables has already proven time and again that he can act, he has been typecasted ad nauseam in gay roles like this, at least as far as his film credits are concerned. He is a good actor, so here's hoping he could score more challenging roles outside his comfort zone.

Another problem with the movie is how it seems lost in what it really wants to be. The reality show format is exciting alright, if you are watching it on television. Something just tells you that this would have been a really fun TV series on streaming. Even though it is fictional, they could have followed the episodic reality show format and given the characters more wiggle room for development. Since the way the shots are filmed have to go back and forth between film and reality style, it makes you want to wish that they should’ve just gone with the reality TV style all the way to make it more exciting.

As an LGBTQIA++ story, the narratives involved are legit but have the tendency to devolve into tropes and clichés. While there is a lot of truth to what these gays are going through, it just feels repetitive at this point, at least what cinema elects to show to the masses about the community. Surely there are other more uplifting stories out there to share. But then again, the title itself is already a dead giveaway as to what the storyline will tackle. For what it is worth, they are still able to inject some comedy in there as the film parodies reality shows in general.

Talking about reality shows and parodies, that musical number in the end is plain atrocious. The thing is, I can’t really decide whether it was just made in an amateur kind of way or whether it is intentional as part of the lampooning of the industry itself. Whatever it is, the film still manages to poke fun at reality shows in a way that does not even require subtlety. The sob stories. The in-your-face product placements. Jason James being an industry plant. It is clever, in a way.

Where Broken Hearts Trip goes wrong is it looks out-of-place in a festival where big names are deciding factors in a movie’s success. Despite the unique format and fun storyline, all this effort does not really mean much when you couldn’t find an audience at all. Anyway, perhaps their biggest triumph here is revealing in the end that the show itself and the destinations themselves are all part of the host’s own journey to move on from his own heartbreak. It gives a new appreciation of the character as a genuine person in a production that seems fake and all for show. In doing so, he becomes the film’s heart.

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