The Star Cinema project, “Suddenly, It’s Magic,” is an instructive production to watch, because it presents viewers with a clear example of how conflicting styles of acting can adversely affect an otherwise promising film.
In the new rom-com, Thai actor Mario Maurer falls in love with a Filipina in Vigan (Erich Gonzales), but their happiness together is soured by some career and cultural conflicts.
Since the story takes place alternatingly in the Philippines and in Thailand, separate casts of Pinoy and Thai actors have been tapped to play important roles, aside from Mario and Erich.
Quite unexpectedly, this has resulted in radically different modes of acting resorted to by the two casts, which add to the movie’s problems with their artistically “bipolar” coloration.
Most of the Filipino supporting actors are comedians tapped to play Erich’s closest friends, who are bent on boosting her spirits after she is jilted by her faithless fiancé.
In solving her bruised feeling of self-worth, however, they opt to be frenzied and even manic in their show of love and support, and this throws the movie’s focus drastically out of the whack! That much “fun” and “humor” gets to be a pain, because it’s so obviously punched and done for effect.
On the other hand, the film’s separate cast of Thai actors are more self-possessed and focused, even when some of them are similarly required to be volatile and agitated.
It’s relevant to note, by the way, that both Filipino and Thai actors are being directed by one person, Rory B. Quintos, so the difference in their respective acting styles is indicative, not of directorial preference, but of divergent “cultural” contexts, especially when it comes to acting on film.
We know from our own (limited) exposure to Thai films and the movie scene in Thailand (having attended various film festivals, conferences and other events in that country) that the Thai actor is not inherently “better” than his Filipino counterpart.
But, in the field of comedy, there does appear to be a basic difference, both in intent and execution, resulting in the more “for-effect” and frenetic overreaching for laughs that characterizes the ensemble portrayal of Erich’s “comic relief” and “support group” of comics in Quintos’ film.
In addition, the Thai component in the movie greatly benefits, not just from Mario’s unexpectedly natural and felt performance, but also from the elegant and striking portrayal of the lovely senior actress who plays Mario’s mother-manager.
Her lovely looks alone command attention—and, when she moves, speaks and expresses her feelings about her son’s love for his Pinay girlfriend, her “totalized” performance is a memorable one.
Alas, no Filipino actor in the movie’s cast comes close. Even when she’s playing the kontrabida, the still lovely veteran actress does so with the lightest, most sensitive touch, so local viewers end up not hating her but understanding why she’s so protective of her beloved son!