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MANILA, Philippines - My first flick for the 2012 Metro Manila Film Festival (as I plan to view and review all 8 entries in the next 3 days) was Star Cinema’s One More Try.
Drawing from the well of infidelity issues which seems to have been a favorite watering place for local cinema recently, it throws some stars together (Angel Locsin, Dingdong Dantes, Angelica Panganiban, Zanjoe Marudo), pairs them up, and lets them tussle.
What makes the approach in One More Try at least interesting is the premise behind these couples’ lives intersecting.
This isn’t a kabit situation we’re dealing with. Rather, Angel Locsin’s Grace got knocked up by Dantes’ Edward years before. Since then, he got married and she has been raising their kid. She had been happy to raise him on her own, but now that the boy has a rare disease, she needs to seek out the father. She finds him, but he isn’t a match either.
Both parents are negative as donors, but bungangera doctor played by Carmina Villaroel suggests that the best solution to the problem is for the couple to conceive and have a new child.
Now I could be off on the science here, but really, have another kid? Like the current kid, Buchoy, is getting progressively sick, so let’s conceive, wait 9 months for the kid to be born, then wait until the baby is old enough to conduct a transplant on, and then voila, things will be good.
There has to be a better medical solution than this, right?
Anyways, let’s say we accept that having another child is the only way to save the kid that’s already in play. This would be fine if Grace and Edward were still a couple. But seeing as to how Edward’s married and Grace’s boyfriend, Marudo’s Tristan, can’t help but grab a bunch of San Miguel beers at the mere thought, the possible need for Edward and Grace to make a baby becomes the film’s major conflict.
Tension increases as Buchoy’s situation worsens.
Now, despite the disbelief I had in the solution, I liked the idea that they had to problematize the option. It was never going to be an easy decision. Angelica Panganiban’s Jacq teeters on the verge of being straight up rich girl kontrabida, but we understand her character’s situation enough that we don’t think she’s terrible (though that happens late in the film).
Tristan (Marudo) is a mopey dude who makes the worst decisions in handling the situation. But for the most part, watching Locsin play the part with some depth allows us to go along and watch how it plays out.
For the better part of the film’s first hour, I was interested in the thought processes and emotions of the characters. I wanted to see how they handled the situation. During this first hour, the script held up pretty well, as we watched things come to a boil. There was a lot of tension, and it kept rising. What I felt too was that there was a lot of potential because of the backgrounds of the characters.
First off, you had the career-oriented Jacq (Panganiban) who had not been able to give Edward (Dantes) the family he longed for. And yet they lived in splendor. Still, she was willing to give up her career to give him what he wanted. This would have made an interesting point, especially since it seemed that no matter what happened in this movie, it was the women who were always giving way to men and their needs.
Another interesting way to look at the film would have been the class issues. Marudo’s Tristan brings this up most, and when you see him in a seedy bar juxtaposed against the classy places where Edward is sipping whiskey, you can get a sense of the layers of inequality that are at work.
All of this is to say that in its first hour I found a lot of potential for One More Try. Though not perfect, the script kept things moving. It allowed the actors to deliver emotionally-driven performances. It built up tension and made us care.
Then it got bad. There are a couple of visits to the hospital in this flick, both used to escalate tensions. Both are also used to provide movement when it seems that the script is stuck with nowhere to go. After the first hour where the couples are thinking, negotiating, reaching compromises, and trying to deal with the possibility of Grace and Edward conceiving a child together, we get the rest of the movie which abandons the sensitivity.
From there, we get one maudlin monologue after another, tears and screaming and all that, all culminating in a slapping-and-hair pulling crazy sequence.
There’s a lot of places this film could have done better. First off is it is really bloated. I feel that you could shave off a good 10 minutes of its run time if you would get rid of the many shots of characters being contemplative and looking off in the distance, or characters getting teary by themselves. There’s just so much unnecessary emoting, that, if pruned from the movie, would have made for a tighter experience.
Most irritating was the score. It was overblown and overbearing. At its worst it felt like someone breathing on you on a train while you read the newspaper. It was just obtrusive. The scenes could have been charged with enough emotion, but with the score making such a ruckus it felt like I was being led around and told what to feel.
And yes, everything after that first hour, when the characters turn into stereotypes, everyone is spewing platitudes and cliches, and rather than them acting as people they act as characters would. In the end, reconciliations are reached for no other reason than the end is near and we need a happy ending for everyone, so that it’s cute.
One More Try is okay. It’s a start. It’s half a good movie.
There are things to like about it for sure: good performances, some good writing, some ideas.
I just wish that it had been brave enough to explore darker possibilities, had had the guts to try and be realistic and try and say something true.
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The 38th Metro Manila Film Festival will run from December 25, 2012 to January 7, 2013 in cinemas nationwide. For more information, visit the official MMFF website.
(Carljoe Javier teaches at the UP Department of English and Comparative Literature. He has written a few books, most recently the new edition of The Kobayashi Maru of Love available from Visprint Inc. and the upcoming Writing 30 available as an ebook at amazon, ibookstore, b&n and flipreads.com.)
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