What’s particularly illuminating about Joyce Bernal’s localization of Hwang Dong-hyuk’s Miss Granny (2014) is that its most memorable parts aren’t the ones that rely on the idea of a 70-year old woman magically becoming younger.
Bernal’s remake shines when it focuses on the performances that pull the experience away from its fantastic premise and into territories that are more relatable.
Near the end of the film, Ramon (Nonie Buencamino) asks that he speak with Audrey (Sarah Geronimo), the lead singer of his son’s band who also turns out to be his mother, in private.
The conversation, beautifully written by screenwriter Jinky Laurel to only refer to what the son may know about the person he is talking to, indirect subtexts and careful nuances, is undeniably touching in the sense that it bestows a surprising complexity to the relationship between son and mother that the film portrays so simplistically from the start.
Bernal’s Miss Granny’s conflict essentially lies on the difficult decision of the son to send off Fely (Nova Villa), his cantankerous but loving mother to a nursing home for the benefit of his wife (Lotlot de Leon) who can’t help but get sick of stress when the old woman is around nagging her. One night, Fely accidentally lands in a mysterious photo studio and has her picture taken, instantly making her years younger. Not wanting to put her son in a precarious situation to choose between her and his wife, she adopts the name Audrey, relives her youth to become a singer for her grandson’s band and ultimately gets discovered by a music producer.
For the most part, the film seems too preoccupied with its premise.
Bernal mines the conceit for laughs and giggles, with a lot of the scenes involving Audrey testing her newfound youth, bordering on juvenile slapstick. Audrey makes use of a freshly bought fish to ward off what she thought was a lascivious man. She suddenly churns out grandiose moves when she passes by a Zumba exercise class, causing a dance-off with a woman primarily used for comic relief. It is all good when the punchlines work but sometimes, the film feels like it is trying too hard, with the jokes often eclipsing the more poignant points the film has in store near the end.
Miss Granny lacks an effort to be consistent.
It piles all of its pleasures randomly, resulting in a film that is lovelier in parts than as a whole. The rewarding and more emotional moments are concentrated in the end, after a staggering middle part that seems confused about wanting to be romantic, comedic or totally inane.
The musical parts are potentially stirring, with Geronimo committing to what she does best, which is to convey a horde of emotions by just the power of her well-trained voice. It also helps that Geronimo inhabits her role very conscious that her performance needs to be loud and prominent in humorous moments but still with room for dignity.
Clearly, Bernal’s remake is more a spotlight as to what kind of artist Geronimo has become. Here, she is simply magnetic, capable of turning the most uninspired of scenes tolerable by just her presence.
The film’s flow is bogged by unnecessary gags. It is also overcrowded, brimming with minor characters whose flairs and quirks aren’t enough to earn their existence in a film that is already too riddled with things it wants to do.
Pull of starpower
That said, this Miss Granny is functional enough to translate the delights of the original Korean film for local tastes.
This is a film that is aware of the pull of starpower in the country and is unashamed to plug its very many holes with Geronimo’s endearing charisma, James Reid’s good looks or Buencamino’s exquisite acting prowess. – Rappler.com
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