Friday, May 13, 2011

In the Name of Love (2011, Olivia Lamasan)

Aga Muhlach. Angel Locsin.

With huge stars like that, film buffs naturally expect Star Cinema to bring in its top people for the project. Olivia Lamasan is an award-winning director and scriptwriter. Enrico Santos has been a script and creative consultant for dozens of Star Cinema blockbusters. Both filmmakers have been semi-regular fixtures of the committee that has molded the slick, dazzling, but trite Star Cinema stories loved (and hated) by viewers for years. I enter the movie theater expecting to be treated to the same old cinematic formula but with a tinge of hope for something out of the box. Lamasan and Santos in tandem? This film must be…

Different. That’s what struck me in the initial, nerve-wracking minutes of the film. A Pinoy hosto named Garry Fernandez (Aga Muhlach) gets the jitters while queuing at the immigration checkout in a Japanese airport. The tense situation makes the viewer imagine all possible misdeeds of Garry. Is he holding a fake passport? Or maybe a luggage filled with drugs? The recent news about a Filipina hoodwinked into using a drug-filled luggage plus the suave direction and editing makes the viewer on the edge of his seat. A thorough search of Garry’s luggage reveals wads of dollar bills. He undergoes a humiliating strip search and ultimately languishes behind bars. And, then the film cuts to a Seven Years Later still. It was a great start for the movie although the arrest inexplicably reminds me of James Bond’s arrest in North Korea in Die Another Day. Same blocking? I need to watch the Bond film again.

Meanwhile, Garry has a brief reunion with his son, who is set to fly to New Zealand along with his new father. Garry decides to open a dance studio because he can’t get a decent, nice-paying job due to his criminal record. His first client is a sexy, sultry lady named Mercedes Fernandez (Angel Locsin). The film then flashes back to the past to reveal the star-crossed love affair between Garry and Mercedes.

Flashbacks are well utilized by the filmmakers. They add enthralling, important layers to the story of a passionate romance. In the name of love, the couple, Garry and Cedes, do stupid things and sometimes, heroic deeds.

Garry, in a tear-drenched monologue, castigates Cedes for leaving him after his incarceration. The first few seconds of the monologue were tolerable but then it become somewhat of an eternity of wailing. My mind was churning out thought bubbles at a fast rate. Gago ka pala, eh! Ikaw ang umako sa kalokohan ng girlfriend mo tapos ngangawa-ngawa ka diyan.

Cedes has a startling revelation as well. She says ‘Mahal kita’ or something like that. Thought bubbles begin forming again. And, as if on cue, what I was thinking coincided with what Garry is blurting out: ‘Mahal? Iba ang katabi mo sa kama…Tapos, mahal?’ Any viewer can relate to it by coming up with dialogues such as ‘Iba ang kasayaw mo… Tapos, mahal?’ or ‘Iba ang kasama mo sa FB profile pic mo… Tapos, mahal?’

The film is clearly made to induce strong reactions from the viewers. While Aga Muhlach was overly-directed in his monologue, slick editing helped Angel Locsin shone through in the ‘mahal kita’ scene. The flashbacks showing the pain and hurts borne by Cedes makes her more sympathetic to the viewers. Totoo pala! Minahal at minamahal ni Cedes si Garry.

The flashbacks show how Cedes took extreme steps to help liberate Garry. She sold her body to politicians and people with enough influence to pull strings for Garry's release. Lamasan and Santos had me hooked completely after those flashbacks. I became one of the viewers wishing for a happy ending for Cedes.

The movie reminds us to hear the side of people who in our opinion deeply hurt us by their disappearance, absence, or lack of communication. What seems to be a despicable deed may in fact be a worthy sacrifice done in the name of love. So before you judge other people, make sure to at least get their side.

The notable film have several flaws such as the idiocy of the assassination plan and the awkward action fight scene atop a factory platform. I can't fathom why the masterminds will allow the assassination to take place during a dance number between Cedes and her beau. It is dangerous as the target keeps moving. And, why would the assassin place himself in an awkward position with obstacles hindering his view? Lamasan is still not adept in plotting action scenes. The escape of Garry is made possible by crafting clumsy goons.

There seems to be a bit of cheating during a flashback scene. I am referring to the initial meeting of Garry and Cedes in Japan. Cedes correctly guesses Garry's name through an embroidered towel curled up in Garry's shoulder. When did Emman Toledo originally assume Garry's persona? There's a runaround that flaw by having Garry as stage name of Emman in Japan.

Isn't it odd that with all the hurts and pain inflicted on the characters, we don't hear a single person say 'I'm sorry'? Not from Garry, Cedes, or Emily. The filmmakers seem to take their cue on the tagline of Love Story: Love means never having to say you're sorry. They even appropriated the film's theme. The dance montage set to the theme song with lyrics is not effective.

Despite the inept action scenes, corny theme song, and unmemorable dance scenes, the film is a nice farewell present for Aga Muhlach, who is leaving Channel 2 and Star Cinema. He may no longer be young (as Garry says 'Matanda na ako') but he still shows what it takes to be one of the best actors of his generation. He allows himself to be deglamorized with shots showing him with a potbelly and enduring a strip-search.

Angel Locsin does a wonderful, excellent take on a difficult character, Cedes. That she was able to make me root for her character shows Locsin's growth as a fine actress.

With this film, Lamasan and Santos clearly shows why they are Star Cinema's top script/creative consultants. It is hard to get an audience to empathize with movie characters but they did it with flourish. This film may end up as one of the best mainstream movies of the year.


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