Kilig 101: It Takes a Man and a Woman

Carljoe Javier
If you're looking for a few hours of love story glee, watch this movie

FULL SERVING OF THRILLS. 'It Takes a Man and a Woman' is a certified hit. Image from the movie's Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines – When I first attempted to see It Takes a Man and a Woman” on its opening day last Black Saturday (March 30), I was met with a crowd and sold out screenings.

It took me a couple of days and a subsided Monday (April 1) crowd to get in. Even then there were long lines to get tickets and into the theater.

It’s safe to say that this film has a specific market, and that market has responded enthusiastically. 

It’s worth taking note and admiring that this is the 3rd installment in a franchise. While there are Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) films that work on “franchise” properties, in general we don’t see too many sequels, extended tellings or re-visitings and the like.

I can think of “Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo” as a rom-com that spawned a sequel. But here we get a 3rd flick, and that’s something. I think it is telling both of the chemistry between leads Sarah Geronimo and John Lloyd Cruz and of the audience’s investment in these characters’ stories.

I did not get to see the previous two films (unless you count watching on bus rides) though it was clear from audience reactions when something was being referenced. Nonetheless, it’s easy to pick up on if not so much to get into. I will also admit that this is obviously not a film that has me in its target market.

I’m a comic book/sci-fi nerd, so this is very far from my wheelhouse, and as a result it is clear that I would not have enjoyed this as much as those who do like this kind of flick.

Not a judgment on those viewers, not an elitist stance (though writing about films and having that writing published can arguably be elitist already) — just putting it out there that this isn’t the kind of flick I am inclined to like. 

For one, this movie has enough ugly crying to last me a year. Maybe two years. Enough ugly crying in this movie for a whole other franchise of 5 movies. The first few minutes, after the intro gag that is almost beat-for-beat shown in the trailers, involves the dissolution of the relationship between the primaries. 

In a series of scenes we get Cruz ugly crying about a number of things. Basically, Geronimo’s Laida has been abroad, and the two have been maintaining a long distance relationship. Laida’s mother winds up there after an implied infidelity on her father’s part, and she is tasked with consoling the mother.

Meanwhile, Cruz’s Miggy is dealing with the death of his father, and he ugly cries for her to come home. She can’t because, well, it isn’t that easy to fly across oceans and leave one’s hurting mother behind. In her absence, Miggy’s ex, played by Isabelle Daza, shows up and holds his hand, so he ugly cries into her arms.

Then we cut to a scene of Miggy and the ex making out, and the camera reveals that Laida has made it after all. Cue more crying as Miggy tries to explain, “It isn’t what you think,” or whatever the obligatory dude line is when your girlfriend catches you making out with another woman. 

From that set-up we move into the main story of the film, which is that Miggy has messed up his family business (Something about them losing the airline, and all that can save them now is the acquisition of a magazine franchise. I had to wonder magazine franchise to save a mega-company? To restore the board’s faith or something. Whatever.) and he now has to work with Laida to broker a deal with an American magazine which Laida has been working for. 

So while they have to work together, they obviously don’t have to make it easy for each other. This leads to a few extended sequences where the two quip and bicker, much to the audience’s delight. I can see the humor in it — just isn’t my thing, the whole passive-aggressive approach to it.

More troubling for me was when Miggy belittled Laida’s position, as it seemed mean-spirited and bullying, falling out of the film’s general tone. 

Though the focus was the verbal sparring between the leads, I found myself having more fun with their supporting cast, particularly their magazine staffers. The comic timing was good, and though it was sometimes hard for me to believe that Geronimo and Cruz were doing the work of their characters, the magazine staff seemed so natural and perfect in their reactions. 

WHAT DOES IT TAKE? It’s the love story that crosses oceans and 'overcomes all' that people want to watch. Image from the movie's Facebook page

The movement then is how the two leads go from the animosity and passive-aggressive bickering to becoming a couple again. It is problematic for me, in large part, because Miggy seems like such a douche for the majority of the film, stringing both women along. He obviously is still in love with the Laida character, and yet he keeps to Isabelle.

If there were more genuine feelings between Miggy and his ex-girlfriend then I might have found some tension to be interesting. Rather, it’s all an eventuality — we’re just waiting for it to happen.

The movie does become interesting in its exploration of Laida’s character. The immigrant experience and the struggle have given her a strength that generally wins us over. She is capable, confident, talented, ready to take on the world. Good on her. It’s just too bad that she ties her happiness to the resolution of this past love.

They’ve been broken up for two years, during which time Miggy has been with Isabelle, and Laida is still hung up. Granted there isn’t a time frame for recovery on these things, but the kind of pettiness and slights, and the general sort of crazy rom-com behavior seemed a bit much for a supposedly strong woman who has found herself and all that.

(And if I were writing this flick then I would have made her resolve her feelings and then moved on, leaving Miggy to the fate he chose as she scaled the ranks of the magazine world on her own. But, yeah, that’s not the point and it ain’t my movie; it is the audience’s movie.)

Of course I could be totally wrong about all of this. It seems that the focus, rather than developing this film as, say, a realistic character study, is to deploy painstakingly calibrated “kilig” moments. As a viewer, while I am susceptible to such moments, I felt that these were just a little too much. If these “kilig” moments were donuts, they had too much sugar for my taste.

Which isn’t to say that they don’t work. If the audience I was watching with is any indication, then this movie is masterful in its ability to take hold of an audience and put them through both sadness and “kilig.” 

In general, there were things that did not agree with my own personal ideas and beliefs: infidelity should be forgiven, men should feel free to ugly cry, it’s okay not to wear socks and partner that with tight pants, finding the one we love is a matter of destiny or fate, and well, a lot of other things.

Further, when exploring the ideas and themes that the film perpetuates, there are some rich readings for class and sexual politics just waiting. 

Again, that’s not the point (can I hear the angry commenters already furiously typing their responses to this review without having read the whole thing?). I mean, all of these things exist. There are a lot of ways that this could have been a better movie, both in terms of story and formal execution. 

Yet that does not really matter. Who wants a love story that’s believable? It’s the unbelievable love story that I think the audience wants. It’s the love story that crosses oceans and “overcomes all” that people want to watch. It’s the flick that sends fangirls’ hearts aflutter.

In that sense, “It Takes a Man and a Woman” knows precisely what it is doing, and it does it well. –


Carljoe Javier

Carljoe Javier doesn’t know why people think he’s a snarky film critic who spends his time dashing the hopes of filmgoers. He thinks he’s not all that bad, really. He teaches at the State U, writes books, and studies film, comics, and video games… Then again, those people could be right.


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