Winsome ‘losers’By Rito P. Asilo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
LAST week, Aga Muhlach told us not to expect too much from Joyce Bernal’s “Of All The Things,” his much-delayed starrer with Regine Velasquez. Its shooting was waylaid three years ago by the songstress’ pregnancy, among other delays.
We also had doubts: Will the film’s quality be compromised by continuity problems? Will the heftier-than-usual duo still pass muster as romantic leads? But, watching their movie renders those questions moot and insignificant—because, as it turns out, you won’t find a better film in the rom-com’s genre this year!
“Of All The Things” follows a deceptively simple story—about Emil “Umboy” Arellano (Muhlach), a wired-to-succeed law-school graduate whose life is put on hold when he unexpectedly flunks the bar exams. Scared at the thought of failing again, he decides to work as a fake notary public!
Enter “professional” fixer Bernadette Pamintuan (Velasquez). She may not be as bright nor as beautiful as the lawyer girlfriend Umboy broke up with (“She’s a constant reminder of my failure,” he explains), but she more than makes up for it with her go-getting, social-climbing, ma-abilidad (resourceful) ways.
In fact, romantic sparks don’t fly the first time the two “losers” meet. But, when Bernadette finds herself in a legal bind and sees a chink in Emil’s almost impenetrable armor, she seizes the opportunity to take advantage of the vulnerable bachelor’s under-utilized legal expertise. And, just when they least expect it, they realize there’s more to their idiosyncratic partnership than meets the eye!
We’re more than happy to see Bernal recover from the shrill and livid comedic yarn-spinning of “Kimmy Dora and the Temple of Kiyeme.” Her latest offering may not be roll-in-the-aisle funny, but when it isn’t yanking at viewers’ heartstrings, its unforced situational gags will have them chuckling heartily.
Bernal surrounds Umboy and Berns with quirky but “relatable” characters, credibly realized by Tommy Abuel (Aga’s father), Mark Bautista (as his cousin), and Gina Pareño, John Lapus and Jojo Alejar as Regine’s mother, gay BFF and kooky suitor, respectively.
As it pays tribute to the bond that binds Pinoy families, the fast-paced and quick-witted movie successfully does away with most rom-coms’ over-the-top pa-kwela and pa-tweetum schtick—which only underscores why Aga is still the dramatic matinee idol to beat. His character wears his proud and bitter heart on his sleeve and the actor doesn’t require protracted dramatic soliloquies to convey heartbreak, wistful regret, resignation, acceptance and hope.
Muhlach’s award-worthy moments include a scene where he verbally assaults Velasquez for her unsolicited help, and when the pitch-perfect Abuel confronts his stubborn son for his refusal to take the bar exams again.
If Aga makes his dramatic moments soar, Regine aces her complex comic zingers with flying colors—and delivers the most textured performance of her career, to date. Yes, she still has some of her post-partum heft, but she’s admirably shed much of it.
Truth is, Aga and Regine’s extra “baggage” hardly matters when you see their stellar personas vanish into the background to shine the spotlight on their down-on-their-luck characters. You won’t find “losers” as winsome as they are!
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