Sunday, July 23, 2017

'Kita Kita' Is a Refreshingly Unconventional Pinoy Rom-Com

With its choice of a “love team”, Kita Kita makes the point right off the bat that it’s not your typical Pinoy rom-com.  Alessandra de Rossi is a pretty and famous actress, but she isn’t exactly known for headlining a romantic movie.  Meanwhile, the choice for leading man is odder.  Instead of a heartthrob like John Lloyd Cruz, the movie went with comedian Empoy Marquez.  But from this unconventional pairing up, what’s made is probably the best Filipino rom-com this year – or, at least, the only Filipino rom-com this year that I’ve been compelled to watch.

Love is blind.  It’s the cliché that this movie’s plot is built upon.  It follows Lea (de Rossi), a Filipina working as a tourist guide in Sapporo, Japan, who loses her sight after a moment of extreme stress.  Enter Tonyo, a Filpino who happens to be her next-door neighbor, whose homely appearance is off-set by his persistent friendliness and sense of humor.  Of course, since Lea is blind, to assess Tonyo based on his looks isn’t an option, and thus, it’s his cheerful and kind personality that charmed her.

Now, I won’t say that this is a great movie.  It’s not exactly as clever as I wanted it to be.  And it isn’t free from forced melodrama.  But compared to modern Filipino rom-coms which tend to follow a tired tried-and-tested formula, it’s fresh and thoughtful.  It avoids most unnecessary cheesiness, and offers amusing and endearing visual elements – from the standard, like going on dates in gorgeous places (again, this movie is set in Japan), to the whimsical, like a heart conscripting a banana to get drunk and dance with her.
The humor is mostly effective.  The theater that I watched the movie in was roaring.  Empoy is capable of drawing laughs by simply how he looks – much more when he contorts his face or make ridiculous remarks.  There are stretches where I think Empoy and Alessandra weren’t really following a script, as if Empoy was allowed to freely do his thing, saying whatever comes to his mind, and Alessandra reacting organically to this.  There are corny jokes as well.  But, in my opinion, there are more hits than misses.

Among all the flaws it has, there’s this particular plot point that really didn’t work for me.  I hated it quite a bit.  In order to make this poignant direction possible, the narrative opted for a tragic happening that felt so cheap because of its utter randomness.  In relation to that, the third act revelation regarding Empoy’s character, though predictable, is sort of clever and sweet; however, if you think more about it, it also has some creepy implications.

In the end, the negatives don’t outweigh the positives of this movie.  Kita Kita is fun overall – a refreshing breath of fresh air from a staling, sappy genre.

More power to indie films.  They are the likely key for a Filipino film renaissance.

Miscellaneous musings:
  • After watching the movie, I immediately Googled if it’s possible in real life for stress to cause temporary blindness, since I somewhat found it absurd.  There are some studies supporting this, but I haven’t found a definitive case that mirrors the scenario in the movie.
  • Last year, I saw a teaser trailer of Kita Kita which featured a noodle-eating scene that played out differently from what the actual movie has.  It was a brilliant sequence, and that was what made me interested with this movie in the first place.
  • It has English subtitles.  It helps with the Japanese dialogue.  But it’s a tad distracting during the rest of the movie.  There are a couple of times where the English subs don’t reflect the Filipino dialogue properly.
  • There’s no 1:1 English translation for “kilig.”  The English subs used the word “gushing.”  Personally, I prefer the word “swoon” as an English translation for “kilig.”
  • Next indie Filipino film that I’m interested of watching is Instalado.
  • An indie Filipino film last year that I really wanted to watch but didn’t get the chance of doing so is Patintero: Ang Alamat ni Meng Patalo.  It wasn’t released in any of the theaters here.  I wish I can get the opportunity to still do so.

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