‘Bride for Rent’ Review: Falling Back on Formula

MANILA, Philippines – There’s another wedding at Star Cinema, and this time Kim Chiu and Xian Lim are tying the knot. Everyone’s invited, and if the box office has anything to say about it, the turnout is predicted to be spectacular. But while every wedding is unique, there’s something unmistakably familiar about Bride for Rent.

Bride for Rent banks on the tried and tested formula of romance under unlikely circumstances. When privileged playboy Rocco (Xian Lim) is locked out of his personal trust fund, he discovers that the only way he can pay off his growing mountain of debt is by getting hitched. But when Rocco hires aspiring actress Rocky (Kim Chiu) to play his lawfully wedded wife, the film takes a predictable turn when paid emotions turn into real ones. 

It’s a classic case of a fake love story turning into a real one, and if you haven’t guessed by now – spoiler alert – there’s a real wedding by the end of the film. 

Bride for Rent makes no apologies for the formula it banks on. The film is loaded with the usual romantic comedy suspects, from the rich boy fearful of commitment to the girl indebted to her family. There’s a deal to be made and a promise to be broken, and in the end, there’s a wedding. There’s always a wedding.

It’s all part of a machine that runs like clockwork within Bride for Rent. But while lesser efforts would’ve made the film cold and mechanical, the film manages a surprising amount of quirkiness that is credited in no small part to director Mae Czarina Cruz and leading lady Kim Chiu. 

The Crazy Charm of Kim Chiu 

Bride for Rent stars celebrity love team Kim Chiu and Xian Lim, but Chiu is the obvious scene-stealer between the two. Much like her role in the last year’s Bakit Hindi Ka Crush Ng Crush Mo, Chiu fully embraces her quirky brand of girl-next-door that is all parts jologs with a fine dash of demure. 

Chiu manages to strike the extraordinary balance between obnoxious and adorable, crazy and charming. While the film’s story seems particularly content with hovering on the borders of predictability, Chiu stampedes into every scene with a volatile zaniness that’s wild enough to be funny, but sincere enough to be plausible. It’s a performance that literally salvages Bride for Rent from its own drone-like familiarity, but also begs Chiu to try more roles that go beyond what’s expected of her. 

In contrast, Xian Lim seems left behind by his partner’s charm. But it’s hard to pinpoint where the fault lies when his role goes no further than the usual cold-hearted commitment-phobe he’s been accustomed to playing. 

But despite all the praise afforded to Chiu, it’s difficult to discount the hand of director Mae Cruz in pulling off a film that is admittedly formulaic, but still surprisingly entertaining. 

Cruz’s ability to make the most trivial of love stories into an crowd-pleasing romantic fairy tale doesn't only show that she knows what works; she also demonstrates an understanding of why it works. Unfortunately, every spark of originality in Bride for Rent is snuffed out by other attempts to follow the status quo. 

Now that Cruz has managed to find success in cookie-cutter romances, it’s high time she graduate to material that will challenge not only her own romantic sensibilities, but Star Cinema’s as well. When a formula is polished to perfection, it may be a sign to try something new.  

Breaking the Pattern 

It’s easy to accuse Star Cinema for propagating the same pattern of romantic comedies; but it’s also important to understand their recent filmography in the proper context. I may stand alone in thinking this, but Star Cinema has had one of its most daring years in 2013. Just last year, we saw the release of films like On the Job, Tuhog, and Kung Fu Divas, all produced at least in part by Star Cinema. 

While these few examples haven't yet fleshed out the cinematic renaissance that cinephiles are clamoring for, it’s hard to argue that these aren’t a positive departure from the usual fanfare we see in commercial theatres.  

But when films struggle to break even, it’s hard to criticize a business for wanting to bank on something more solid. In a way, films like Bride for Rent become the real world rental fee for films like On the Job. 

In the end, despite the undeniable charm of its leading lady, there is really no substitute for an original story. Audiences who are paying for an inoffensive and entertaining romantic comedy will undoubtedly be satisfied with the brand of kilig offered by Chiu and Lim. But for audiences hoping for a break in the pattern, the best advice is to take every opportunity to catch the films that do, and to pray that Star Cinema will be willing to take more risks this 2014. – Rappler.com

Editor’s note. Disclosure: Zig Marasigan previously worked with director Mae Czarina Cruz on another film, Every Breath You Take, but he was not at all involved in the making of Bride for Rent. The opinions expressed here are his own and are from a viewer’s perspective. 

Watch the Bride for Rent 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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