'Last Fool Show' review: Found love story
At first glance, it would seem like Last Fool Show, marketed by its producers as a rom-com, is the odd creature out of director Eduardo Roy Jr's carefully curated filmography.
After all, Roy, who started out with queer short Ang Pinakamahabang One Night Stand (2006), seems to be more interested in dealing with the human condition. His films center on characters who are embattled by their positions in the margins of society, whether it be a perpetually burdened nurse in his debut feature Bahay Bata (2011) or a homeless couple hopelessly searching for a baby in Pamilya Ordinaryo (2016). Focusing on love, most especially the romantic kind, seems to be a step back for a filmmaker who clearly doesn’t have escapism as an endeavor in his craft.
First and foremost a filmmaker
However, Isa (Arci Muñoz), the lead character of Last Fool Show, is not just another one of those rom-com girls who are either rushing to fall in love or reeling from a recent failure at love.
Roy makes it clear that Isa is first and foremost a filmmaker, one who has decided to make the stark transition from making socially relevant films to fan-pleasing romances featuring love teams. Finding love is not Isa's struggle. It is artistic integrity in a career that is driven not by creative vision but by marketing committees and monetary rewards. In that sense and despite its affinity to most rom-com tropes, Last Fool Show isn’t really that much of a deviation for Roy.
In fact, it is this unwillingness of Roy to be fully subservient to the formula machine that makes Last Fool Show such a surprisingly enthralling work. The film is an odd but intrepid marriage between the found story philosophy which Roy subscribes to, with its presumably personal tale of an idealistic filmmaker finding her way within a profit-motivated system, and the rom-com, with its reliable inclusion of most clichés, twists, and turns that provide the genre its comforts.
The film has gumption.
It has the nerve to offer a satirical view of the inner workings of a commercial film studio, how it fawns over new talent to recruit them and groom them into cash cows, how it supplants originality with revisions as suggested by a working committee, and how it transforms artists into cogs in a clockwork apparatus that churns out products instead of art. Roy, however, doesn’t satirize out of contempt. He does so with wit, humor, and even a bit of affection over the other side, acknowledging even in his caricature-like portrayals of the personalities responsible for green-lighting and bankrolling pictures that there is still a semblance of humanity amid the stifling corporate structure.
Attempts at convention
It is the attempts at convention that prove to be Last Fool Show’s weakest links.
While the conceit of the film is that the plot points of the rom-com Isa is making for the movie studio is interchangeable with her recent heartaches, the film isn’t as seamless as it could have been in blurring the lines between reality and entertainment, resulting in scenes that are either too mawkish for real life or too cloying for the top-tier rom-com Isa is striving for.
There are sequences that border on unmitigated sentimentality, such as when Isa and Drei (JM de Guzman) decide to swim donning mermaid tails, with an even more saccharine rendition of Cliff Richard’s "Ocean Deep" playing in the background. There is also a scene where Drei dives into the ocean, with the refrain from "Ocean Deep" suddenly blaring as soon as the character plunges into the sea. These are details that prove to be either too desperate if the goal of Roy is to up his rom-com ante to please his producers or too dense a parody to really work.
However, for every maudlin scene Last Fool Show has to offer, there is also an accompanying alcohol-doused conversation that parades the delightful silliness of two strangers falling in love with such wild abandon.
Roy subverts the faulty wisdom that is usually thrown carelessly in most rom-coms by making most of the connections between Isa and Drei evolve through intoxicated teasing and romancing. This allows Muñoz to shine, delivering a performance that is for the most part, loud and appropriately vulgar, but has room for softness and vulnerability at the right time. Last Fool Show isn’t the most balanced of romances, but its innovations make it vastly layered.
Taking on compromise
Last Fool Show is a genuinely novel work, especially if seen alongside most recently released romances that are taking themselves too seriously to the point of losing track of the filmmaking struggles that are left unseen from the final product. The beauty of Roy’s film is that it takes on the compromise the artist has to succumb to head-on. It is a film that works finely either as a comical deep dive into the soul-sucking entertainment industry or as just a piece of entertainment. – 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.