‘Just The Way You Are’ Review: Pop and junk
“Once you pop, you can’t stop.” – the famous slogan of the potato chip brand can also apply to the current methodology of the country’s biggest studios in doggedly maintaining a severely unhealthy status quo of dull cinema. The Internet has produced an insane amount of content for exploitation, and while there may be a few gems hidden in the heap, innovation is clearly sorely lacking.
A lot of the stories sourced from Wattpad and whatever other online platform are just variations of the same swoony fantasies that have shaped the narratives of the studio-produced rom-coms for so many decades. Simply put, originality and vision are not the motivation for the collaboration. It is all economic, with the studios simply mining the Internet to expand their film’s market base.
There is really nothing wrong with earning a bit of money out of a bit of entertainment. However, the prevalence of monotonous and dull escapism outweighing everything else will only leave a lot of room for cynicism, making all fervent efforts at entertaining moot. Theodore Boborol’s Just the Way You Are, an adaptation of Kimberly Joy Villanueva’s novel The Bet, is a prime example of this phenomenon, where the film, harmless as it is, is spoiled by the stench of profit-motivated repetition.
Where’s the pop?
Villanueva’s The Bet is by no means a literary masterpiece. The core romance between Drake Swift and Sophia Taylor, mismatched lovers forced together by a childish bet that slowly but surely blossoms into an affair, is derivative and predictable. The novel’s meager but very pronounced personality is defined not by its disposable narrative but in how the story echoes the fantasies of a fan specifically of pop singer Taylor Swift.
Just the Way You Are, in screenwriters Maan Dimaculangan and Ceres Helga Barros’ efforts to apparently localize the story,removes most of the Villanueva’s references to Taylor Swift and to everything else pop. What remains is just the story without context, but peppered with various additions, ranging from humorous sidekicks and unsurprising daddy issues for the central lovers. Stripped of references, the story loses the only thing that it has going for it, which is its unabashed and unembarrassed allegiance to pop music.
Boborol’s role is to simply fill in the blanks, to mechanically churn out another romantic comedy as vanilla as everything that has been released before it. Just the Way You Are looks, moves, sounds, and feels like the rest. It is fun when it pushes the right buttons. It is torturously melodramatic when it pulls away from its simple-minded love story to dwell on family issues that are magically resolved by virtue of weepy lines delivered by weepy faces.
Just the Way You Are is tiring and tedious because it is completely generic, bereft of any surprises. Drake (Enrique Gil), who in the adaptation bears the surname Sison instead of Swift, and Sofia Taylor (Liza Soberano) are ideal romantic partners. The bet that would bring them together and predictably set them apart is too convenient a plot device.
If it weren’t for Gil and Soberano, who charismatically portray their characters, the film would have been completely charmless, awfully subservient to formula as it is to the various commercial products that litter the film with their awkward placements and advertisements. The film is only worth watching to see how the two young actors are able to make appealing and exciting mountains out of empty and drab molehills.
Sadly, Gil and Soberano’s efforts outshine the product. Just the Way You Are is blatantly tired and as a result, utterly forgettable. It remorselessly betrays the youthful energy that the duo infuses into their obviously scripted romancing.
Addicted to mediocrity
Just the Way You Are is a clear product of an addiction to a certain kind of mediocrity that rewards its creators with profit and popularity. There is simply no stopping the popping. Junk food and the culture that deems it necessary and delicious are here to stay, for better or worse, whether we like it or not. – 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. Profile photo by Fatcat Studios