‘Vince & Kath & James’ Review: Formula done right
There is nothing original about Theodore Boborol’s Vince & Kath & James, and that’s not exactly a problem.
Instead of hiding behind pretenses of novelty, the film wears its inspirations on its sleeve. It alludes to Edmond Rostand’s 1897 play Cyrano de Bergerac, about a real-life nobleman who can only express his feelings to the girl he loves through the poems and letters he ghost-writes for another man. It also references to Olivia Lamasan’s 2002 Got 2 Believe, the Claudine Barretto-Rico Yan starrer that has a wedding photographer be hopelessly in love with the perennial bridesmaid who unfortunately has her eyes set on another man.
Romance in the information age
Engineering student Vince (Joshua Garcia) is in love with Kath (Julia Barretto) but can only express his feelings through six-worded romantic lines he posts in social media under the pseudonym Da Vince Quotes. However, James (Ronnie Alonte), Vince’s cousin and their school’s top basketball varsity player, is also interested in Kath. Oblivious to Vince’s feelings for Kath, he recruits Vince to charm her through anonymously sent text messages.
Vince & Kath & James pits romance in this age of information.
The film’s most direct inspiration, Jenny Ruth Almocera’s Vince & Kath, is a love story told mostly through the text messages that are exchange between its main characters. The first part of Boborol’s film dutifully utilizes the device, allowing Vince and Kath to develop emotions by means of witty and romantic retorts that they read from their phones. Their physical interactions are limited to restrained adoration in the guise of petty fighting.
There is something quite fascinating about the many montages that show Vince and Kath giggling with glee while reading each other’s cute declarations of love. In the absence of actually seeing each other, the would-be lovers are shown without glamour and filters. They clumsily brush their teeth, donned in the most unspectacular clothes they normally wear to sleep, and swoon in absolute delight.
In a way, the film’s loveliest moments are the ones where its protagonists aren’t shrouded in tons of make-up and needless ornamentations. This is as raw a commercial rom-com can get, at least for now.
Experiments and discoveries
Vince & Kath & James is stubbornly formulaic, and as a result, its story follows a very predictable trajectory. Vince and Kath start out as awkward colleagues who have things going between them. James butts in, creating a love triangle. The drill goes on, ending with hardly a tinge of surprise.
Formula however isn’t always a bad thing. While familiarity sometimes breeds contempt, if done right, it also begets comfort and easy pleasures. The screenplay by Daisy Cayanan, Kim Noromor and Anjanette Haw is dutifully constructed, bearing all the foundations of an efficient rom-com.
The experiment comes in the form of casting.
Garcia, who in 2014 was just a contestant in a reality television show, gives the films a refreshing vibe.
He naturally exudes a certain charisma, one that fits the character of Vince to a tee. He is believable as the hopeless romantic, touching as the unfortunate underdog, and affecting as the hapless victim of his parents’ transgressions. Paired with Barretto, he also proves to be quite an effective leading man, one who doesn’t rely solely on good looks but also on an innate ability to forge chemistry within the four corners of the film without need of much manufactured fanfare.
New and old
Vince & Kath & James is an engaging confection. Boborol has crafted a rom-com that doesn’t need to deviate to delight.
Times change. The way we create our own love stories evolve. From the love letters our parents and grandparents eloquently write each other, we now send sweet nothings to our loved ones from our smartphones, waiting patiently as the messages are shown to be delivered, seen and replied to. However, love is love. It is still the same feeling that led Cyrano de Bergerac to hide behind the poems, that pushed Rico Yan to get past his staunch beliefs about romance.
Vince & Kath & James feels new and old at the same time, and that’s beautiful. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas’ 'Tirad Pass.' Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.