‘My Neighbor’s Wife’ bites off more than it can chew
The controversial stars of “My Neighbor’s Wife” have all been in the news lately – but, none of the recent controversies involving Lovi Poe, Dennis Trillo, Jake Cuenca and Carla Abellana could match the dramatic upheavals their characters are made to endure in Jun Lana’s convoluted melodrama.
The movie’s confounding twists and turns send up the schmaltzy excesses of the histrionics-heavy dramas of the ’80s, in which warring couples shamelessly wash their dirty linen in public.
Lana’s film ups the dramatic ante by getting Abellana’s character, Jasmine, to confront her adulterous husband, Bullet (Jake Cuenca), and her best friend, Giselle (Poe), while Aaron (Dennis Trillo), Giselle’s confused hubby, looks on. Astoundingly, this scene is played out in the presence of their friends – and their pastor! But, we’re getting ahead of the story.
Aaron and Giselle are an ambitious couple, but their hard work isn’t enough to provide for the comfortable life they desire. The marriage of their well-to-do bosom buddies, Bullet and Jasmine, also goes from bliss to bleak. Their situation heads further south when Bullet ends up in bed with a distraught and inebriated Giselle!
Many confrontations later, Jasmine is seen sharing late-night trysts with Aaron while their repentant spouses patiently wait for them at home! With friends like these, who needs enemies?
Ambitious but ultimately unsatisfying, Lana’s movie bites off more than it can chew. It employs a good number of “gotcha” moments that rely heavily – and implausibly – on chance and coincidences.
As the film’s exposition unravels, Trillo transmogrifies into a manipulative villain who makes life a living hell for his remorseful wife. Unfortunately, his shift from nice to nefarious is too sudden to be believable. For the most part, Cuenca is all bluff and bluster – and, when his character decides to mend the error of his ways, his transformation feels cloyingly superficial.
The ladies do better: The luminous and picture-perfect Abellana plays the dutiful wife convincingly, but she’s less believable when her character succumbs to the “dark side” – her rage and resoluteness lack conviction and are devoid of the fire and fury she’s supposed to evince.
The arc of Poe’s character is almost forgotten in the film’s last quarter – which is ironic, because lovely Lovi comes up with the film’s most textured portrayal. She “sells” the killer lines she’s required to deliver and makes sense of the dull ones.
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