Friday, February 27

Change This Movie

We literally had two minutes to get inside the theater last Wednesday. I just picked a time that was convenient, 5:10PM. I figured it wouldn't be that crowded because people were still in schools and offices. But when I got to the counter almost all the seats were taken and I didn't know it was in a THX theater. That's how I ended up paying a full day's pay for the John Lloyd and Sarah movie.

The first teamup between John Lloyd Cruz and Sarah Geronimo was A Very Special Love. Plain girl Laida desires the masungit rich boy Miggy who publishes the magazine Bachelor, which is published by Flippage, one of the many business ventures owned by the Montenegro clan, whose black dressed and tuxedoed members scowl from the cover of the Society magazine's huge billboard along Guadalupe. Laida the plain girl moons over this billboard every time she passes it, and she likes Miggy so much that upon graduation, she applies to Flippage to be an Editorial Assistant. And lucky girl she was because on her job interview, she ends up offering a cup of coffee to the love of her life. They fall in love. They do weird things like dancing to stop the downpour and hire trucks so they could sing Smokey Mountain songs on them.

AVSL was a big hit when it first came out and I suspect it was because it was pure fantasy: plain girl gets rich boy. Of course, the rich boy has issues: he was an anak sa labas. He resents that his mother (Agot Isidro, in pictures) died and his father's family doesn't really like him. The good (legitimate) brother doesn't trust his capacities as publisher. Laida helps him get through all of this, even meeting his dead mother. And in the end, Miggy's father vouches for him so Rowell Santiago has no other choice but to take him in. Sarah Geronimo is a funny girl, unafraid to make a fool out of herself and the energy with which she throws herself is admirable. John Lloyd is trading on his sullen boy act, which for some reason girls find attractive. There's one scene where John Lloyd gets sick and Sarah nurses him back to health. It's the atsay and amo act all over again. So this is what the Pinay really wants is to play mommy, yaya, assistant and girlfriend all in one.

These are the issues that You Changed My Life takes on.What happens after the "happily ever after"? In fact, I was rather surprised that the movie is actually a direct sequel of A Very Special Love. Perhaps the creators thought they had a story that worked well, and decided to just pick up where they left off. We find out that Bachelor lives, and Laida takes care of their advertising load. Meanwhile, the Montenegros venture into a partnership with an airline company, and Miggy has to write a speech for his brother announcing this. The speech was horrible and he has 30 minutes to revise it. Guess who he calls to revise the bloody speech? Laida is the middle of a client presentation, but her mobile phone fills the conference room with Miggy screeching, "Bebe ko, bebe ko!" It's one thing to be in love and announce it to the world via mobile ring alerts. But I tell you, that ring tone was like a rusty nail being dragged across a blackboard. To fill the theater with that ringtone was torture. But of course, Laida is in love, she pushes aside the client presentation and ducks under the table to think of a tag line for this wonderful venture into the airline industry.

All relationships have their ups and downs, and our protagonists have more on the way. Miggy gets entrusted with the family's manufacturing gig. It's a plant in Laguna where they make jeans. It's a low profile, minimum output operation. Rowell Santiago as Miggy's older brother used to manage it. He comes to the plant ready to roll up his sleeves and iron some jeans, the workers respect him, and Manang, the assistant, simply adores him. When Miggy shows up for his first day at work there in a coat and tie, he is greeted with hesitation. Will this wimp of a boy do the job as well?

The boy wants to impress, so he ups the production quota. He targets big clients, and one of them is Mikee Cojuangco on the verge of turning matronix. She doubts the boy can deliver. But if he hands in Mikee's huge load of skinny jeans, Montenegro Manufacturing's Clean Living can have the contract. Miggy accepts amidst howls of protest from workers. He later turns the place into a 24-hour sweatshop. The workers take arms, call his dad and kuya, and Miggy is shamed once again. "Hindi mo na naman pinag-isipan ito," Rowell tells him.

The Montenegros are forced to renege on their word and tell the clients they are sorry. Mikee and Rowell Santiago exchange memories of their old courtship. Rowell would call Mikee complaining about his sore back, that he needs Salonpas, and poor Mikee gallops to Laguna bearing Oil of Wintergreen or something. The scene affords us the opportunity for Rowell to shed the Evil Kuya role--he went through everything Miggy is being subjected to, even more. He had to let go of the girl he loved so he could be the good son. But this is also a little nice throwback to the '90s: Rowell and Mikee make for a nice looking couple, a director and model tandem for Swatch advertisements, or a loveteam showcasing the travails of boy and girl love in the dinosaur age before the Internets. It would have been a really nice cameo for Mikee Cojuangco, who had to abandon her movie career to be wife and mother. It really would have helped if they gave her a really nice wardrobe--not the mumu-esque black monstrosity they made her wear. And somebody smudge that eyeshadow!

Meanwhile, in Laida land, Sarah reconnects with her best friend from high school. Makoy also reneged on a promise: he and Laida were supposed to study in the same college, but he took off without warning and left Laida hanging. He's back now, and it seems like he wants more than just play patintero outside the Montenegro building. It's the best friend drama of the century: Makoy suffers his love for Laida in silence because he is the best friend. With Miggy busy in Laguna, Laida finds herself declining invitations from colleagues to eat and go out, only to be told at the last minute (by that annoying Bebe-ko ringtone) that yet again, Miggy can't make it to their date. Laida is taken for granted. She wants to make the ultimate sacrifice: resign from Bachelor and just play Miggy's assistant in Laguna. Isn't this what being in a relationship is all about: to be at the lover's beck and call?

It's a conflict that makes me recall all those movies from the 90s onwards, like that film with Eric Quizon and Giselle Tongi as preppies (or was it advertising executive and flight attendant, whatever). Or it could be that movie where Bea was a call center agent and John Lloyd was an accountant. Or this could have been a movie directed by Joey Reyes. It has that feel. You could replace Sarah with Bea or G or another pretty face. Except that none of the prettier faces could work as well in this particular movie. But the Laida Magtalas in You Changed My Life didn't have that many funny scenes. And the most fun part in the movie was the flashback sequence from AVSL.

There's no doubt in my mind that this movie will be a hit. The theater was full. And when we went out, there was a really long line of people waiting to see the movie. And this was the first day. I didn't even know that it was the first day of showing. Which brings us to the question: What else does this movie have to offer? The John Lloyd's scowling boy and Sarah's naivete act will wear off soon. What will the third movie offer? Miggy and Laida get married; we follow Laida's misadventures as she is introduced into "society?" We can't just follow them step by step into marriage and old age. Or maybe it's best to stop here, while the kilig (like fizz in a bottle of cola) is still there, while there's a chance at a happy ending, while Miggy and Laida still work as a fantasy project.

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