‘Starting Over Again’ Review: A different kind of Valentine’s
MANILA, Philippines – In Starting Over Again, former lovers Ginny (Tony Gonzaga) and Marco (Piolo Pascual) have long gone their separate ways, but the circumstances of their breakup have left both of them with unanswered questions.
When Ginny receives a postdated letter from Marco, she sees it as a second chance to rekindle what she had lost with her former boyfriend. And when a business venture brings the two together, Ginny takes every opportunity to win Marco back, even if it means stepping in between him and Patty (Iza Calzado), his current girlfriend.
Unlike most mainstream love stories, the details of Ginny and Marco’s break-up are mostly kept secret. But as the film cautiously moves forward, their past is slowly unraveled. We move backwards and forwards through their relationship and soon discover that even the most endearing of love stories can be riddled with flaws.
The film runs the risk of waiting too long before its grand reveal, but once it gets there, it at least delivers in a sensible but realistic manner. In a way, Starting Over Again does away with the usual boy-meets-girl routine. In its place is something undeniably familiar but also unmistakably novel.
The truth behind the theatrics
Directed by Olivia M. Lamasan, Starting Over Again retreads themes of missed opportunity and lost love, much like her previous work in Milan and In the Name of Love. But this time around, Lamasan injects levity in what is indisputably a story about loss and heartbreak.
Starting Over Again travels through time without the aid of science fiction. In this case, Marco’s past has become Ginny’s present, but it’s their future that remains unwritten.
Despite the film’s merits, Starting Over Again is far from flawless. The film relies heavily on a heightened level of theatrics and hallmark one-liners. But a more interesting concern is the film’s tone. The film shimmies unsteadily from the comedic to the dramatic, even if it does manage to hit both punchlines and heartstrings at just the right time. But the inconsistency here isn’t a lack of script or direction. Instead, it’s that the funny jokes are coming from something genuinely painful.
It’s easy to laugh at Ginny’s desperate attempts to win Marco back, but it’s not as easy to realize, that deep down inside, we are probably guilty of doing the same. We laugh at Ginny not simply because she is funny but because she gives us a reason to not laugh at ourselves. Starting Over Again speaks to the Ginny in all of us, those so naively foolish to win love back that we fail to recall why we lost it in the first place.
A modern ending
Despite the jumps in tone and its reliance on mainstream tropes, Starting Over Again never loses sight of its larger goal. Regardless of what you may think of the film, it’s hard to argue against the importance of the film’s ending, not simply in the context of its story, but also in the context of mainstream cinema as a whole.
In an industry where love stories are predestined for happy endings, Starting Over Again gives us a happy ending of a different sort. Without giving too much away, the film ends on a note that is not only satisfying but unmistakably brave. But the question it satisfies isn’t more the what than it is the why.
“I deserved an explanation. I deserved an acceptable reason,” Marco demands amidst a heated confrontation with Ginny. It’s a line that seems lifted straight from the bowels of primetime soaps, but in the context of the film’s larger story, it tells us that endings are only as good as the insights they provide.
Towards the right direction
More discerning audience members may scoff at the film’s meager attempt to inject something new to the mainstream formula, but as with Ginny and Marco’s relationship, true change doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, effort and, of course, risk. And while the film is still a long way from changing the status quo, Starting Over Again at least takes a step in the right direction.
This Valentine’s Day, Starting Over Again aims to conquer the domestic box office, and will undoubtedly do so with little resistance. But instead of cashing in on something traditional, Lamasan succeeds in delivering a familiar love story with a bold twist.
Admittedly, the strength of Starting Over Again isn’t that it falls into the nebulous category of good cinema, but that it succeeds in eliciting something far more abstract and far more powerful. Like Marco's letter, the film allows its audience to relive the memories of their own lost loves.
Valentine’s Day isn’t simply a day we celebrate whom we love; it’s also a day when we rethink how we love and why we love. For those who manage to make a connection with Ginny and Marco, Starting Over Again does exactly that.
Watch the trailer here:
Zig Marasigan is a freelance screenwriter and director who believes that cinema is the cure for cancer. Follow him on Twitter at @zigmarasigan.
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