Stanley Tucci once said that “the constraints of melodrama can be a great blessing, because they demand that all characters involved – as absurd and extreme as they may initially seem – must stay utterly rooted in their own reality, or the whole project collapses.”
For whatever reason, Ruel Bayani’s Kasal, about Lia (Bea Alonzo), a woman who is about to be wed to the sole hope of a political family to stay in power, is adamantly bound within the narrative construct of a traditional melodrama. (READ: Bea Alonzo, Paulo Avelino, Derek Ramsay on marriage and settling down)
Given that, its pleasures do not hinge on the attempt to load its commercial endeavor with a sliver of progressive idealism. Instead, it's hinged on sordidness of the affairs it weaves and machinates for its characters, all of whom are motivated not by basic human instinct but by a need to deliver the unwieldy plot towards an unsurprisingly pleasant resolution.
Sure, its attempts to talk about the spectrum of sexuality within the context of heterosexual relationships and other traditional social structures is noteworthy. But it is evident that the film’s true desire isn't to expand the thematic landscape of the genre, but to treat the fluidity of sexuality as a device to amplify the lavishness of the plot’s reliance on sensationalist twists and turns.
In all fairness to Kasal, it is consistent in its absurdity. Its characters behave in accordance to the set realities of their myopic world, with simplistic virtues that can be obnoxious when viewed with more informed eyes.
The film is staunchly melodramatic and its emotional thrusts are grounded not on the humanity of its characters, but on how they cartoonishly react given the most ludicrous of situations. It really is all for entertainment’s sake.
At whatever cost
Kasal starts off briskly detailing the love story of Lia and her fiancé Philip (Paulo Avelino).
The conflict starts when Lia, in her desire to help Philip, who was pushed into running for mayor by his father (Christopher de Leon), makes a suggestion to rehabilitate a rundown bridge to improve Philip’s uphill campaign.
This becomes the opportunity for Wado (Derek Ramsay), an engineer and Lia’s former fiancé, to win Lia back at whatever cost. In Wado’s mind, all is fare in love and war, prompting him to resort to unsavory methods to make sure that Lia and Philip’s wedding doesn’t push through.
The plot is hopelessly convoluted, meandering just to deliver a predictable point that is slight in insight, even if it is veiled with a supposedly more modern and radical intent.
Thankfully, the film is easy on the eyes. Mycko David’s cinematography is marvelous, often conjuring subtle emotions that the narrative doesn’t quite deserve.
Kasal features a very heartfelt performance by Ricky Davao who plays Lia’s father. Unfortunately, the other performances aren’t as compelling.
The characters that Alonzo and Avelino portray play to their strengths and weaknesses as actors. Lia is the long-suffering woman whose impassioned outbursts make up for all the character’s tedious passiveness. Philip, on the other hand, is conveniently timid. Ramsay disappoints more than he succeeds in making his character’s intentions believable.
Will Wado get Lia back despite hurting her in the past?
Don’t let Kasal trick you into thinking it is more than a sumptuously dreamed up soap opera.
While hopefully earnest, it miserably fails as fervent statement on gender issues. – 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.