Image courtesy of Instagram: starcinema
Movie Review by Atty. Ferdinand S. Topacio
ABS-CBN Films (2017)
Starring: Kathryn Bernardo, Daniel Padilla, Matteo Guidicelli, Cherry Pie Picache, Lito Pimentel, Lotlot De Leon, Dennis Padilla, Kristel Fulgar
Written by Carmi Raymundo and Kristine Gabriel
Directed by Mae Cruz-Alviar
CAN’T HELP FALLING ASLEEP…
The plot is totally so-so, as in middling, and as in “same old, same old”. Kathryn Bernardo plays Gabriela, a young woman of simple stock betrothed to Matteo Guidicelli’s character Jason, a young, wealthy Filipino lawyer reviewing for the New York bar. During a mass wedding officiated by the mayor of an undefined town, where Gabriela was part of the wedding entourage of a friend, Daniel Padilla’s Dos (short for Jose Ibarra Gonzales), who is the mayor’s friend, sees Gabriela (called Gab for short) and is instantly attracted. In the ensuing party for her newlywed friend, Dos and Gabriela providentially meet again. After having one too many drinks with the mayor’s clique, Dos and Gabriela, in a drunken moment of madness, sign a wedding contract partly in jest.
The movie then goes on fast forward. Jason and Gabriela, through internet audio-video link, finalize plans for their wedding. In preparation, Gab is required by the wedding planner to produce a “CENOMAR” or “Certificate of No Marriage”. In complying, Gab is aghast to find out that what she thought was a sham marriage, was in fact registered by one of the mayor’s staffer.
Never mind that in real life, that “marriage" would have been void from the start due to lack of a marriage license. This is a Filipino movie after all, where a healthy dose of suspension of disbelief is in order. To Gab, the marriage to Dos being legal, it had to be annulled if the wedding to Jason is to push through. Panic-stricken, she turns to Dos for help. At first reluctant and displaying that devil-may-care attitude that Daniel Padilla does so well (being the only thing he does well), Dos’ heart melts as he sees Gab looking so desperate. They consult a caricature of a lawyer, who gives them the grounds for annulment. They try each one out one by one: impotence on the part of Dos, insanity on the part of Gab, lesbianism again on the part of Gab: each one is scripted farcically and leads to some mayhem. In the end, the only recourse left is to look for a witness to say that the marriage was never intended to be real, which proves difficult because the mayor and all those present in the mock wedding have died in a car crash shortly after. All except one. It is the search for that sole witness that leads to the movie’s catharsis.
As intimated above, the movie is trite, banal and formulaic, with writing so stilted it was more likely to provoke smiles than sympathy in the dramatic scenes. The story arc is such a continuous déjà vu that anyone who had any familiarity with Filipino films can see a plot twist coming a mile away. It is a disappointing throwback to simplistic rom-coms that I thought films like “Always Be My Maybe” and “English Only Please” have irretrievably left behind. This movie is nothing but an episode of “Maala-Ala Mo Kaya” stretched to feature proportions, which appears to be all that its director strove to achieve.
It was not all bad, of course. The movie is gorgeously photographed, and the musical scoring is spot-on, always complementary, never over-powering, consistently thematic. Bernardo is also a gem, her simple morena loveliness illuminating the screen; verily, to use a cliché, the camera loves her. She has also improved by leaps and bounds in acting since I last saw her in “Pagpag” in 2013 (although her fans will surely bash me for saying that her archrival Nadine Lustre can still act circles around her). The way she subtly yet deftly conveys her ambivalence about her impending marriage through taut non-verbal expressions is the movie’s highlight. Truly, the kid can become a really good actress if she puts her mind to it. Without doubt, this is Kathryn’s movie.
Sadly, her partner Daniel has not kept pace. Still displaying all the acting mannerisms at the start of his career, Padilla cannot internalize any character. He is still Daniel Padilla playing Daniel Padilla. While such style may be good for another movie or two, if he fails to improve his acting skills, he will find himself overtaken by his contemporaries like Inigo Pascual, who has inherited much of his daddy’s acting chops; or even James Reid, who shows vast thespic improvement in every picture he makes. Daniel must remember that James Dean is an icon not only because of bad boy good looks, but Dean demonstrated he could act up a storm since his first starring role in “East Of Eden” (1955).
The supporting cast also failed to support. Almost all of them, veterans though they may be, look like they were sleepwalking through the movie. And poor, hapless Matteo, a competent actor, was nothing but a plot device, spending more time with Bernardo on a computer screen than in person. A notable exception is newbie Kristel Fulgar, who made every minute of her small role count.
It is movies such as this one that are partly the reason why the Philippine film industry is in the doldrums. Pandering strictly to hardcore KathNiel fans -- which is admittedly a lucrative business decision – it famously insults the average viewer’s intelligence by not even trying to transcend its target audience.
In the final analysis, unless you are a rabid KathNiel follower, “Can’t Help Falling In Love” can’t help but make you fall asleep. Only a double helping of espresso, and Bernardo’s occasional flashes of acting brilliance, made it endurable for me. Elvis must be turning in his grave.