MANILA, Philippines – It’s hard not to think of Philippine youth as anything but misrepresented. Despite the presence of many youth-targeted stars and shows, local entertainment is disappointingly lacking in stories that genuinely capture the fleeting, yet irreplaceable years of youth.
Though the goals of Diary ng Panget are hardly as ambitious, it’s hard not to think of the film as a missed opportunity to mine the potential of its cast, its premise and its story.
Based on the best-selling book series of the same name, Diary ng Panget follows the unattractive and penniless Eya Rodriguez (Nadine Lustre) as a struggling scholar at a private school. But when she lands a job as a personal maid for the rich and spoiled Cross Sandford (James Reid), she finds out that her paycheck may not be worth the monstrous treatment of her good-looking yet hard-to-please boss.
Eya’s doesn’t earn many fans in school, but she does manage to make friends with boy-next-door Chad (Andre Paras) and the half-British Lory (Yassi Pressman). These characters make up a quirky love quadrangle that unfortunately doesn’t end with more than the predictable switching of romantic partners. But while Diary ng Panget does succeed in providing the odd spark of entertainment, it is ultimately weighed down by its shallow depiction of youth.
A diary without honesty
For a film based on a young woman’s private journal, Diary ng Panget provides very little insight on the modern day troubles of a young adult. Eya is depicted as hardworking and especially intelligent, but outside of her acne-ridden skin and her sassy personality, there’s very little else that defines her.
Diary ng Panget follows Eya throughout the majority of the film, but never succeeds in getting into her thoughts and motivations. While a diary would’ve been the perfect medium to acquaint ourselves with Eya, director Andoy Ranay makes the odd choice of relying on it as little as possible.
Unfortunately, the same criticism can be leveled against the film’s other characters. The spoiled and thuggish Cross isn’t much deeper than his dislike for ghost stories and his melodramatic past. Eya’s friends, Chad and Lory, don’t fare any better, suffering from the same caricature-like quality as the film’s main characters.
Because of the lack of characterization, the resulting love story ends up feeling superficial and unmistakably convenient. Although younger generations have always been represented as carelessly naïve in matters of love, Diary ng Panget makes no attempt at tempering that with any amount of substance. In the end, the young are all depicted as ugly ducklings waiting for their prince charming.
Despite this criticism, Diary ng Panget succeeds in bringing together a particularly charming cast with relative newcomer Nadine Lustre leading the charge. Director Andoy Ranay does well to draw an entertaining amount of chemistry between his 4 actors, but unfortunately fails to keep the story, as well as its characters, from breaking out. Because of the film’s overt reliance on cliché and stereotype, Diary ng Panget fails to deliver on the soul of any convincing diary – honesty.
It’s difficult to pin the blame solely on the film when the original books have the barest of story to begin with. But with Viva Films hedging its box-office bets on best-selling books, it should now set its sights beyond the written page by producing films that are smart enough to use what works and brave enough to throw out what doesn’t.
Like the studio’s previous effort, ABNKKBSNPLAko?!, Diary ng Panget misses the opportunity to transcend its original material. What could’ve readily been an insightfully entertaining love story on youth, love and identity, simply turns out to be an amusing film on pimples, punchlines and worn out clichés.
Diary ng Panget is a film that is seemingly content with its own conventionality, taking its cue from primetime telenovelas like I Love Betty La Fea and the more recent Got to Believe. But this is exactly where the youth is misrepresented – because in the minds of films like Diary ng Panget, this is all the youth is about.
But for any young adult trying to make sense of life, they should know more than anyone that life is much more than just that. – Rappler.com
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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