Sunday, January 04, 2015

Funny and delightful


My January 4, 2015 column.
We finally got to watch English Only, Please - the movie adjudged as second best picture in the still ongoing 40th Metro Manila Film Festival.  We have made it a point to watch the top three movies in the MMFF in the last five years mainly to support the producers and artists who dare go up against the so-called MMFF franchise movies, also known as the brainless and idiotic drivel that the more established local movie producers have conditioned Filipinos to think as holiday movie fare.
It was heartwarming to note that the theater was quite full which belies the claim being trundled out that there is no audience for good movies during the holiday season.  From what I gathered from friends and from social networking sites, Bonifacio, English Only, and Kubot were finally drawing people in after they were declared by the jurors as the top three movies that were worth watching in the MMFF.
So did I think that English Only, Please deserves the awards it garnered?  You bet.  I would even go on record to say that the movie deserves praises for illustrating that a romantic comedy movie need not be illogical, ridden with clich├ęs, and feature over-the-top in-your-face acting to be funny or delightful. 
The supposedly artistic people behind the tired and tiresome MMFF movies of Vice Ganda and Vic Sotto should watch English Only and learn from it; I would be more than happy to even pay for the movie tickets provided they open their minds to new possibilities.  In fact, I think the movie should have been adjudged best movie of the 2014 MMFF if only for reminding everyone that there truly are many new and innovative ways of serving even the same old recipes.  
To put in more bluntly, the people behind English Only deserve our gratitude for hitting Wenn Deramas (director of Praybeyt Benjamin) and company squarely in the head.
English Only is a movie that is strongly reminiscent of Woody Allen movies:  It’s witty, funny, pokes fun at people and situations – but does so in an intelligent way. 
The basic plot of two broken people finding love in each other is quite basic and ordinary but the movie’s premise is quite inventive; it still asks us to stretch our sense of reality a bit, but at least it doesn’t insult us with situations that have no semblance with real life whatsoever.  The main characters are believable, and mercifully are not reduced to caricatures even if we pretty much knew how the whole movie would end.  There are many things about English Only that makes us believe that the people behind it actually thought through the whole movie.  For one, they resisted the urge to over-explain or even resolve the many odds and ends in the plot.  We didn’t need to see the main characters’ exes groveling before them, or Jennylyn Mercado’s family achieving a moment of enlightenment, or even the best friend snagging her own happy ever after.  We know not everything ends happily, thank you very much.
Mercado deserves her best actress trophy.  It’s not really very often than one gets to see a Filipina actress living out a role like its second skin.  One actually sees Tere Madlangsacay in this movie rather than Mercado.  And yes, her award proves that the genre is not really material; good acting shines regardless of whether it is in a period drama or in an absurd comedy.  Derek Ramsay must have won best actor over Robin Padilla (in Bonifacio) for consistency.  It can certainly be argued that Ramsay is playing a variation of himself in this movie, but he makes us root for his character all the way through. 
If you haven’t watched it, please go to the theaters and do so.  It’s probably the must-watch movie of the season if one is looking for something delightful. 

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