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Post-Valentine observations

/ 12:08 AM February 17, 2015

Personally, I found it a scandal and a shame that for Valentine’s Day weekend, our local cineplexes would see fit to show, in theater after theater, “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

I don’t know what the dysfunctional relationship between a college student and a domineering businessman with sadistic sexual tendencies would have to do with romance. But isn’t it odd that film distributors would expect Filipino couples to flock to the movie in such great numbers they carpet the theaters with nothing but “Fifty Shades”?

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If you must know, ever since I found out that the book started life as “fan fiction,” I’ve been turned off by “Fifty Shades” and its knock-offs. Reviews of how badly written it was made me spurn it all the more, so when the hype for the movie began, I tuned out. But, finding ourselves with an empty afternoon, the hubby and I turned up at a film complex and found to our horror almost all theaters given over to “Fifty Shades.” My faith in the moviegoing taste of Filipinos was badly shaken.

Fortunately, my daughter-in-law convinced me to give “That Thing Called Tadhana” a try. Starting out as an independent film, “Tadhana” (Fate) did so well at an indie festival that Star Cinema, the commercial movie arm of broadcasting behemoth ABS-CBN, picked it up for commercial distribution. ABS-CBN hasn’t looked back since. Last I heard, the movie has made P100 million at the box office—not bad considering that it has been the lone hold-out around Valentine’s season against the “Fifty Shades” blitzkrieg.

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A good sign was, sneaking in just as the movie’s opening credits was onscreen, we saw the theater nearly full. No truth to the rumor that lovey-dovey couples have nothing but sado-macho rituals on their minds these days.

* * *

“That Thing Called Tadhana” tells the story of Mace (Angelica Panganiban) and Anthony (JM de Guzman) who meet at an airport in Rome on the way back home and establish a friendship based on mutual need, loneliness, rootlessness and heartbreak.

Social media posts have cited “hugot” (heart tug) lines from the movie, written and directed by Antoinette Jadaone, who has established a reputation as one of the country’s emerging Jedi masters of the rom-com.

There are too many to mention here, but suffice it to say the dialogue successfully echoes lines commonly shared by millennials, full of ironic observations, comic asides, cussing and smart-alecky comebacks.

I’ve always been a fan of Panganiban’s, especially when she dares the rare comic outing, because she seems to jettison all “artista” pretensions, turning in performances that are so all-out, bigay-na-bigay, you forget her soap opera beginnings. But as Mace, she also walks the rail-thin line between comedy and heartache, a young woman who has her heart broken in Italy and goes on an impromptu road trip to Baguio and Sagada in a bid to forget and “move on.” You find yourself rooting for her along the way.

And also for Anthony, played by JM de Guzman, who I was noticing for the first time (apparently, he’s been a “best friend” character in many other films before) but was winning me over with his laid back, sympathetic portrayal that served as a perfect foil to Mace’s hyper grieving.

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Congratulations all around to everyone involved in “That Thing Called Tadhana,” not just for the P100-million milestone, but also for proving that we Filipinos can take an ironic, unsentimental look at love without turning sudsy or teary—and a good time besides.

* * *

Best wishes to both Sen. Chiz Escudero and actress Heart Evangelista who got married over the weekend on Balesin Island, a high-end resort complex off Quezon province.

Facebook was full of photos and videos of the wedding ceremony, with Heart marching down the aisle of the makeshift chapel all by her lonesome, a situation created by the absence of her parents who chose to absent themselves from the ceremony because of the many “issues” that cropped up in the course of her relationship with the senator.

Newspaper reports quoted both Heart and the senator thanking each other for “fighting” for the relationship, which came at great cost but which, I hope, will be compensated for by a lifetime of harmony and happiness.

Notable among the photos of the wedding party was a line of men in dark business suits, many of them prominent figures in business and politics. Snarky commentators made much of this “combination,” noting how in this country governance is determined as much by money as by competence and integrity.

Escudero has denied any political motivations in his courtship of and relationship with Evangelista. Nevertheless, having a well-known face and a public figure as one’s “consort” in the course of a campaign cannot hurt. But even if only during the “honeymoon period,” let’s drop all cynicism in favor of optimism—for brighter days ahead for this couple.

* * *

So in this immediate post-Valentine period, more important than we even realize in this country of sentimental fools, that is how we remember love and its many permutations.

A “little” film that is winning out despite everything against it—“indie” origins, a solid cast even if the stars aren’t exactly blockbuster material, “talky” material, and competition from a Hollywood blockbuster.

And a wedding where the principals had a rocky path to tread before the easy walk down the aisle. Proving, to many, that even the most difficult romances are blessed by positive karma, but only if both in the relationship work hard at protecting it from calamitous weather outside.

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TAGS: ‘fifty shades of grey’, ‘that thing called tadhana’, column, Rina Jimenez-David, Valentine's Day
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