Movie: Everything About Her

"Everything About Her"

Powerful but ill-stricken business woman, Vilma Santos navigates her complicated relationship with her caregiver, Angel Locsin and her estranged son, Xian Lim in this story about acceptance, love and forgiveness.

I wasn’t really planning on watching this film, so I didn’t have very high expectations coming in. And, to be completely fair to the film, I actually enjoyed the shenanigans as Vilma Santos tried her darnedest to be Meryl Streep in Devil Wears Prada, and Angel Locsin served her best Andrea (Anne Hathaway’s character from the same film). They both didn’t quite meet their goals but they were, at the very least, entertaining.

Then Xian Lim entered the picture, and everything went downhill after that.

Now, again in the spirit of fairness, it wasn’t completely Xian Lim’s fault. His character was all over the place, and that blame would either go to the writer, the director, or whoever was cutting the film. At least, that’s what I was telling myself until Xian’s big dramatic scene came. And I couldn’t stop laughing.

It was that bad.

Thankfully, the laughable acting is limited to two scenes. Both with Xian, true, but he wasn’t bad throughout the movie. Just with two very important, very dramatic scenes. Although, again with the fairness, it must not have been easy to find motivation for a character who doesn’t seem to have a reason for doing anything.

Which brings me to the biggest problem Everything About Her has: it focuses more on style over substance. Giving more weight to dialogue that can be quotable quotes instead of staying true to who the characters are. And what the viewers are left with is a convoluted mess of a film whose premise became as murky as the characterization of the main characters.

You see, the film is supposedly about a very hard, very independent woman who suddenly has to rely on a nurse whose method of taking care of someone is to be as familiar with them as possible. So she could cater to their needs before they even know they need it. Along the way, they’re supposed to find in each other someone that had been missing in their lives for so long: a child for the hard woman, and a mother for the nurse.

Now, had Xian Lim’s character been relegated to a supporting role, I think the film would have been better–more whole. As it stands, the film really was very entertaining and very clear prior to his characters arrival, as I already mentioned above. But his inclusion really throws the whole film askew. It was one thing that you don’t actually understand why he comes in in the first place, but he also complicates the Vilma-Angel relationship in a bad way. Because suddenly, it has to contend with a romance angle.

And it doesn’t work. Mostly because you never believe for a second that Xian is falling in love with Angel. And then there’s the fact that the film doesn’t really allow their romance to blossom because it’s more interested with the abandonment issues the three suddenly have.

Yes, it’s sudden. Because although the film begins with Vilma and Angel being well-rounded individuals with no hang-ups, the minute Xian enters the picture, they suddenly have issues about being left behind. And Vilma’s character suffers the most from this because, for the first part of the movie, it’s implied that she’s the one who had done the unintentional abandonment! And then, with Vilma suddenly being dependent on her need to be loved by a son who is being more of a diva than the diva the film’s title is referring to, Angel suddenly develops her own abandonment issues–that could’ve introduced and explored better had the romance angle never happened at all!

To top it all off, the film boasts of an amazing cast of supporting characters who, I feel, were all wasted because they weren’t given more to do. Michael de Mesa as the only friend of Vilma’s hard-to-love character could’ve also served as a sounding board for Xian’s character whose motivations were never clear–because the actor wasn’t that strong to convey it on his own. Nonie and Shamaine Buencamino’s presence in the life of Angel Locsin’s character was so negligible, she could’ve been an orphan raising her host of siblings on her own. Which is a shame, because in the three scenes Nonie and Angel had together, you can see the promise of a wonderful father-daughter relationship that could’ve been explored more, to highlight the journey Angel’s character is supposed to take.

But, no. We have to contend with being force fed Xian Lim’s character instead. Who, had he been given a clearer motivation, could have worked as a third main character. But he wasn’t. So he ruins the film instead.

I could probably go on further about the things I didn’t like about Everything About Her, so I’ll stop now. Let me just say that if you’re going to watch for Vilma and Angel, you won’t regret the ticket price. They deliver solid performances, even amongst the confused story-telling. But if you’re watching for any other reason? Lower your standards. Like, by a lot.

Book: One More Chance

"One More Chance"

Is love enough to make a person feel fulfilled and happy?

Meet Popoy and Basha, two lovers who believe they are destined to be together forever. Practically inseparable, everyone around them knows there can be no Basha without the ever strict Popoy. Nor would Popoy exist without his damsel, Basha.

But when one of them realizes their feelings for each other can no longer make them feel content, they resolve to search for themselves outside of the safety of each other.

Will Popoy and Basha find happiness apart, or will they learn to give love One More Chance?

If I were to answer that question? I was happier when Popoy and Basha were apart. Much happier. To the point that I breezed through the parts of the book where they weren’t together, and I fell in love with the character of Basha: a woman who saw how important it was to find herself, to save herself from a destructive relationship… Who became a better person for it.

And that oft-quoted scene where Popoy said “she loved me at my worst. You had me at my best?” I’ve always thought it was an epic piece of dialogue that made you feel for the male lead. Now that I know the context of the scene? I wanted to punch Popoy in the face. Multiple times. And I don’t know if I would’ve felt the same way had I not read the book and watched the film instead.

The thing about novelizations is that no matter how close to the material a writer gets, you can’t help but add nuances and thought into the characters. I have never seen One More Chance as a film so I have no way to compare the two, but I do feel like Popoy got the short end of the stick in the novelization. Sure, we get an equal amount of time between the two characters and their motivations. But while Basha comes off as a sympathetic character, Popoy comes off as a douche most of the time.

Unless that’s how it was with the film too. I wouldn’t know. It’s just that… Throughout the book, I never thought Popoy deserved Basha. Which is why I really appreciated the fact that they weren’t forced to live happily ever after. Because I feel like Popoy should do more to earn Basha.

And he will get a chance to do that, when A Second Chance, the sequel to the 2007 film, comes out on November 25. Because of course One More Chance would have a sequel. Basha didn’t really get the closure she needed, and as romantics, Filipinos will always look for that happy ending.

I’m just hoping that however it ends, the characters would stay true to themselves. That they choose what would make them happy, and not what would satisfy the fans of the original film.

All that said, I have to commend writer Juan Miguel Sevilla for a well-written novelization that really gives body to the characters–and does not rely on knowledge of the film. The novelization of One More Chance can stand on its own. And the artwork by married couple Elbert Or and Lorra Angbue-Te add a much appreciated romantic whimsy to the whole package. I have to say though, the editor should do a better job at proofing the book. There were a number of glaring pronoun confusion within the book.

[Disclaimer: I was approached by ABS-CBN Publishing Inc to write about this book, but this is not a paid advertisement. The thoughts I wrote down are my own.]