MANILA, Philippines – It’s all been done before. Jolina Magdangal, in fact, has made a very lucrative career in the 90s by playing exaggeratedly chirpy women who harbor secret longings for unassuming best friends, usually played by erstwhile onscreen partner Marvin Agustin.
Then there is Rory B. Quintos’ “Mangarap Ka” (1995) that had Claudine Barretto and Mark Anthony Fernandez play best friends-turned-lovers in a story set amidst competitions and ambitions that only the University of the Philippines can offer.
More recent is Ruel S. Bayani’s “Paano na Kaya?” (2010), based on a hit song that sums up the dilemmas of being consumed by hidden affections for a best friend, where Kim Chiu quietly suffers while Gerald Anderson falls desperately out of his valued relationships.
Perhaps the most impressive of the lot is Jose Javier Reyes’ “Kung Ako na Lang Sana” (2003), where Aga Muhlach and Sharon Cuneta are best friends. They only discover they were meant for each other after living through their lives, too busy with careers or failed love stories to acknowledge they like and love each other after all.
The escapist formula
There is simply something about romances blossoming out of mere friendship that is so attractive to Filipinos. It is perhaps because these love stories represent the most realistic of escapist romances. After all there are no requirements of fated romantics facing glaring odds that their truest love will have to withstand. It only requires what most of us might already have: a best friend who we may have fancied as our one true love.
Thus, any expectation for innovation from Mae Cruz’s “She’s the One” can only lead to disappointment. It briefly delights only because it tells a story that is all too familiar and all too comforting.
The film does not have any ambitions of reinventing the wheel. In fact, it is stubbornly precise in following its formula. This stubbornness, relieved only by a few attempts at placing the tired love story into a present day dominated by social media, can only lead to a film with very meager charms, reliant mostly on whatever charisma its leads can muster out of playing boilerplate characters.
Love in the time of social media
Cat (Bea Alonzo) has always loved Wacky (Dingdong Dantes). However, because she knows Wacky is too busy playing the playboy with his many women, she relegates herself to being his best friend. Little does she know, Wacky actually also has feelings for her.
When David (Enrique Gil), a college student who happens to capture a video of Cat changing the tires of her car in the rain, starts expressing his love for Cat through social media, things start to fall in place. The 3 become entangled in a romance that can only be set right by Cat and Wacky finally admitting feelings for each other.
Cruz does attempt to excite with only details that allow the story to stray a bit from its all-too-familiar path. Along the way, Cruz details the difficulties of maintaining a relationship with a very wide age gap. She situates the love story in a world proliferated by shallow expressions via the ease and convenience of communicating through social media, and touches the surface of how impulsive, and perhaps trivial, relationships have become, romantic or otherwise.
Predictability, however, is still a given in these kinds of romances. Despite the attempts to color their fictional world, Cat and Wacky will end up together, leaving David, surprisingly selfless all of a sudden, giving up for the sake of a clean resolution.
Absent any realistic struggle for love, the film’s easy resolution seems a tad too insincere and manufactured. It seems to be more a result of the impulsive feelings this generation represents than any real yearning. Given that, Cat and Wacky may actually deserve the very hollow happy ending they get: cold and drenched in beautiful but fake rain.
Watch the trailer here:
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters is Carlo J. Caparas’ “Tirad Pass.” Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.
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