#MMFF2016: Vince & Kath & James, and the Romantic Comedy that Works

The Vince and Kath text-serye took the internet by storm earlier last year. I unwittingly went along with the ride. At first, I dismissed it as something so cliché it was unbelievable. But then again, I almost – almost! – read through the entire thing.

In this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival, the only big budget film to make the list is Star Cinema’s adaptation of this viral text-serye, Vince & Kath & James (VKJ). After Saving Sally, it was next on my list of must-watch films for this year’s festival. And so, I made time for the flick this afternoon.

shes-dating-the-gangster-official-posterIt really has been a long while since mainstream Philippine cinema has focused on the nostalgic and heartbreaking era of adolescence. I’m pretty sure She’s Dating the Gangster (which also hailed from a story that went viral online) was the last good one, and youth wasn’t even really the focus of that.

Neither was it the focus in VKJ, but damn can you feel it.

Star Cinema is known for its inescapable formula. Throw two attractive leads together. Build up their chemistry. Shower them with family issues, conflict. Make them up. Almost all Star Cinema productions have those elements squished in them. VKJ is not different.

Vince (Joshua Garcia) is a hardworking engineering student with a penchant for writing. He’s been hopelessly in love with his classmate, Kath (Julia Barretto). But, as Filipino as he is, he has no guts to say it. Instead, he operates a blog called #DaVinciQuotes, and relentlessly text messages her until she agrees to meet up with him. The latter one of his tactics was complicated with the involvement of James (Ronnie Alonte), his cousin, and basically his adoptive brother, whose family took him in when his mother refused to care for him. James, the star basketball player of their university, became attracted to Kath. And so, he asked for his ever-reliable, and perennially indebted cousin for help. Woo her through messages until she agrees to meet up with him, and then he’ll take care of the rest.

We all know that Vince and Kath are going to end up together, and watching them get there was a nice ride to tag along to. Watching them as interns having fun and bickering truly will truly illicit the same comment a co-worker of theirs spurted out, “Ganyang-ganyan nagkatuluyan ang lolo at lola ko.” (That’s exactly how my grandparents ended up together.)

There’s a reason why there is a tried and tested formula for romantic comedies, emaxresdefaultspecially ones involving the younger generation. It’s because it works, and VKJ proves that. And I just love how VKJ paid homage to what’s possibly the greatest romantic comedy Star Cinema has churned out in its decades of existence, Olivia Lamasan’s Got 2 Believe starring Julia’s aunt Claudine Barretto, and the late, great Rico Yan. I love how that heartbreaking moment of when Lorenz (Rico Yan) sees Toni (Claudine Barretto) waltz inside the surprise he had waiting for her only to be eclipsed by Perry (Dominic Ochoa) was alluded to by Vince, Kath, and James in a similar fashion.

 

What I didn’t like about VKJ was the family issues that plagued its heroes. I just couldn’t believe the insanity of their situation. Vince was living with his aunt and her family because his mother’s new husband cannot accept him. It happens everyday, but I just didn’t find it real. I ultimately found, though, that these back stories are absolutely essential. Kath would not have truly softened up to Vince had she not witnessed the fiasco that was his mother rejecting him. Kath would never have opened up her eyes to how much Vince cared for her had she not ran away upon her father’s return.

It was a good film, and perhaps that’s the reason they had let it join the ranks of this year’s MMFF. It was honest, as how movies should be. I fell in love with Joshua Garcia in the few minutes that I watched him portray a character on the screen. He reminded me so much of John Lloyd Cruz, and how earnest his characters would always be.

Two out of eight down for this year’s MMFF, and I don’t know if I still have the chance to catch anymore of them. Again, VKJ would not win any awards (and I believe it didn’t?), but it was a good watch. It made you feel good without killing your brain cells. It made you remember what it was like to be young and to feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, but still ultimately be very infatuated with your crush as though everything will cease to end if they did not look your way.

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Perhaps this is the start for Star Cinema. Maybe they’re going back to these kinds of movies – honest, heartbreaking, real. I sure hope so.

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A Review on Colleen Hoover’s Maybe Someday

I think Maybe Someday (MS) is the first real New Adult novel I’ve read. I’ve read really adult novels (not the kinky kind!). Damn, Revolutionary Road was heavy. I’ve also read young adult novels, because duh. If we define New Adult novels by merely the timeframe in which these take place, this would not be my first. Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl and Sandy Hall’s A Little Something Different would have gone first. Those were so fluffy, though. This was real.

This is my first Colleen Hoover novel. I haven’t really heard of her, but while I was browsing goodreads.com to find my next read, I came across Maybe Someday and liked the summary it provided. And so I thought, why not?

The story is about a girl named Sydney who finds herself practically homeless after finding out the truth between her roommate and boyfriend of two years. The guitar-playing boy she used to watch from their balcony takes her in with the condition that she helps him write lyrics for his band. He happens to be deaf, but so what?

From reading the synopsis alone, I did not think that Ridge would be deaf. Based on the first few chapters, I didn’t think he was deaf. And so, I was pleasantly surprised when it was later revealed to me that yup, he was.

I don’t know much about deaf culture. Most of it, I learned from Nyle DiMarco of America’s Next Top Model Cycle 22, and the groundbreaking ABC Family series, Switched at Birth (SAB). I love Switched at Birth. And so, because of how well Maybe Someday dealt with Ridge’s deafness, I loved it too.

Emmett Bledsoe from SAB – and the real deaf actor who plays him, Sean Berdy – is a master of the drums. How can that be when he can’t hear, you may ask. Well, he’s deaf. And so, he relies on the vibrations of the drums to tell him the beat he should be playing, the rhythm he should be following. Ridge plays the guitar in a similar way. These two characters are just living (fictional, but living) proof that you can’t really ‘dis abilities.

With that being said, I still had my problems with Ridge. In all honesty, I loved him. How could you not love someone who was that perfect? And there goes the very reason why I had my problems with him. He was too perfect. Throw in a tragic back story that would just make you love him even more.

I’ve read too many YA novels with boys who are just too perfect to be real. That’s precisely why they were in the novels and not in real life. I know, I must be skeptical. But still. What was Ridge’s fault? He was confused by his feelings for Sydney and his long-term girlfriend, Maggie?

I fell in love with SAB partly because of Bay (Vanessa Marano) and Emmett’s love story. I was expecting a Daphne (Katie Leclerc) and Emmett romance to blossom, but how naturally Bay and Emmett fell into each other was just too breathtaking for words. Of course, Emmett being deaf, and Bay not knowing any sign language at the beginning of their relationship was also a plus. It was amazing watching them learn how to communicate with one another.

Ridge in MS didn’t have verbal words to say, and so he relied on text messages, notes, laptops. I just have to wonder if any guy – or person even, in this day and age – would write as lengthily as Ridge (and also Sydney!) does. They both do it so fast, I couldn’t really believe it. Or maybe I’m just nitpicking.

But that was how they communicated. Poetically.

The romance between Ridge and Sydney felt slow at first, and then it became too quick for words. They’re attracted to each other, we get it. They connected over music and lyrics. Each songwriting session was nothing less than physical and emotional tension fighting each other.

Ridge and Sydney could have started a relationship the moment they laid eyes on each other. But then again, there won’t be any MS. What makes MS is the presence of Maggie, Ridge’s long-time girlfriend who has a secret of her own.

It felt so much like a Nicholas Sparks move to throw Maggie’s illness at the readers, but it was essential. I loved their love story even more than I did Ridge and Sydney’s. And so, I better understood why they had to break up in the end. I got where Maggie was coming from. I wouldn’t have wanted to be with Ridge either, no matter how much either of us loved each other.

The push-and-pull between Ridge and Sydney got tiring after a while. Just be together, please. Watching (reading!) you guys fight your urge got really annoying. But okay, they’re adults. They can’t just jump into a relationship because they feel like it. It doesn’t work that way. Such is life.

Spoiler alert! They do get together in the end, though. And it was satisfying, in every sense of the word. I watched Sydney pull a Bay and (FINALLY) learn sign language after the months she spent away from Ridge. In the end, Ridge something that Emmett never did for Bay in SAB. He spoke again. I don’t know if I would have done that for a girl I barely knew. I don’t think I would have even shared as much as I did to a girl I barely knew. But then again (and again and again and again), this is fiction.

I definitely recommend reading this novel! I would give it a 3.5 out of 5 stars. After having read the entire thing, I immediately tried to search for the songs that were featured in it, and thank God an angel named Griffin Peterson transposed it from lyrics in a novel to real music that you can watch on YouTube. I’ll leave some of it here for you to enjoy.

Maybe Someday

I’m In Trouble

Let It Begin