#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.