Somehow, over the years, I’ve conditioned myself about what to expect when I enter a cinema. There are high expectations for critically and widely acclaimed movies, as well as for international film festival entries; Leonardo di Caprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt films tend to be on a higher level than the usual Hollywood flick (which is probably why I am extremely disappointed with Don Jon); Hollywood horror films will have a lot of blood and death, Asian horror will films truly scare, and local horror films will have lots of moments that startle the audience–and a lot of unintentionally funny moments in their attempt to be scary. There are movies I keep a blank mindset about, like well-loved favorites or book adaptations I have not read yet.
It’s the same thing with local movies–I even have a checklist.
What to expect from a local comedy:
1) Body gags
2) Puns and jokes that will not be relevant in five years (no lasting power)
3) Absurd situations
5) Funny scenes
6) Maybe a song and dance number
What to expect from a local action movie:
3) Goons, possibly in leather jackets despite the Philippine temperature
4) Lots of shooting with the police showing up and arresting the bad guys right away
6) Plot, what plot?
It’s these formulas, repeated so many times with little variation over the years that has taught me to enter cinemas with certain mindsets. If it’s a Star Cinema romcom, I expect kilig, some laughs, some drama, nothing new or innovative. Hell, I’m even ready to stomach their tried and tested box office hit formula of: popular love team with a plot of poor girl with bad clothing choices but possessing a heart of gold, sustaining her family financially with her meager income + the rich boy she will change/”fix” + funny sidekick friends + happy ending formula they have down pat. And it’s fine–if I wanted something fresh, out-of-the box, but local–well, offerings from the biggest movie production houses whose primary aim would be to earn wouldn’t be my first choice.
So it did surprise me when most of the reviews I read whined about Bride for Rent’s predictability, unstellar acting, and at least one irritating cast member. Those three are integral parts of the formula of a blockbuster Star Cinema romcom! How dare these reviewers go in the cinema expecting something fresh and innovative and not tailored to earn heaps of money from obsessive fans or people wanting to feel kilig!
Kidding aside, I do believe that Bride for Rent delivered Star Cinema’s primary goals: earning money and making people laugh. After all, it never promised a never-before-seen concept or any amazing or surprising plot twists. Just some laughter and kilig, and it delivered.
I am disappointed though, since Star Cinema usually delivers better romcoms. I felt the story lacked in the romance department. After the usual guy-starts-falling-for-girl-because-of-how-she-treats-her-family-moment, there wasn’t much of a we’re-in-love-with-each-other moment (unless you count a slow motion pillow fight scene). For a movie that’s banking on a successful love team, it could’ve done with more kilig-inducing moments. There was no moment where I, as an audience member and observer, felt that the characters truly loved each other.
While the plot is predictable, there were a few basic questions that I was surprised the movie didn’t tackle–like why was Rocky (Kim Chiu’s character), despite being the youngest and the only girl, the breadwinner? And as the breadwinner, why was she relying on such an unstable source of income? We were told all about Rocco’s (Xian Lim’s character) family background, yet we got none for Rocky (maybe it’s because her character doesn’t need “fixing” and thus background didn’t need to be touched upon).
The movie also interspersed interviews with (real?) married couples which reminded me too much of the 1989 Hollywood movie When Harry Met Sally; it even kept playing the interviews from the couples and an interview with the newlywed characters during the first part of the movie’s closing credits, exactly like the Hollywood movie they got it from.
And of course, Bride for Rent could have done without the drama moments at the end–but as it’s a Filipino production, drama is to be expected, even in a comedy film. I’d be (pleasantly) surprised if a dramatic confrontation or a crying scene didn’t appear in a Filipino film, regardless of its genre.
At the end of it though, Bride for Rent is a feel good movie. It’s not new or fresh or out-of-the-box and it does use tried and tested elements. It’s not going to change the landscape of Philippine cinema. But at the end of the day, it served it’s purpose–to make a lot of money and make people laugh.