Appealing leads buoy up underwhelming teen romp
The big leap of “Diary ng Panget” from page to screen has something going for it—its appealing cast, led by Nadine Lustre, James Reid, Andre Paras and Yassi Pressman. When we watched the film on its opening day, its “kilig” moments had its followers happily falling into a swoon, as its actors carried the weight of their characters’ woes lightly on their young, still-unaffected shoulders—and it doesn’t hurt that they’re easy on the eye.
The movie’s narrative is pretty straightforward: Ms Ugly meets Mr. Nasty when cash-strapped protagonist Reah “Eya” Rodriguez (Lustre) is hired as the personal maid of spoiled brat Cross Sandford (Reid), the campus heartthrob with a tongue as sharp as Eya’s mind.
Do opposites always attract? Not this time—and, in Eya’s case, not by a long shot! After all, unlike everybody around her, she isn’t just poor—her self-esteem is also in tatters because of the acne pockmarks on her face!
But, while it’s true that she hasn’t been gifted with physical perfection or affluent parents, the spunky teener knows that her optimistic personality isn’t such a bad thing, either. She doesn’t allow bullies to push her around!
Like her foulmouthed boss, Eya goes to a ritzy school—as a scholar, of course—where she gets the brunt of insults from jealous, mean girls who resent her “close” ties with the dreamy Cross and the similarly swoon-worthy Chad Jimenez (Paras), who’s infatuated with her stunning best friend, Lory Keet (Pressman)—who, in turn, has her eyes set on Eya’s elusive employer! —But, whom is Cross in love with?
Director Andoy Ranay infuses the foursome’s romantic roundelay with a youthful vibe that captures the spirit of the book’s playful irreverence, but gives short shrift to its narrative weaknesses. Andoy’s winking humor and joie de vivre always come through in his movies (“Sosy Problems”)—and they’re the better for them.
But, the fun-loving filmmaker tends to get carried away and ends up disregarding lapses in logic—like the masquerade ball that heavily references Cinderella’s date with Happily Ever After. Eya is supposed to be smart—but, she suffers from the same visual and auditory affliction that prevents Lois Lane from figuring out that Superman and Clark Kent are one and the same dude! Besides, isn’t Reid’s Aussie twang a dead giveaway?
It also rankles to have a father as powerful and stern-looking as Gabby Concepcion allow his bratty son to call him names—such temerity and arrogance from a “misunderstood” young man who’s supposed to have a good heart beneath his steely façade!
Of course we’re happy to see the much-missed Mitch Valdes, as Eya’s surly aunt, on the big screen again—but, letting the gifted actress do nothing but scoff and snarl at her niece is a grave misuse of unimpeachable talent. Viva can do better than this!
Pat on the back
Be that as it may, the entertainment company deserves a pat on the back for giving moviegoers fresh-faced, new idols to cheer on—and, while they can benefit from further polishing, Lustre, Reid, Paras and Pressman are more than up to the task.
The fast-paced, technically proficient rom-com plays well to its target audience’s fairy-tale fantasies: In the theater, women shrieked with delight when James and the towering Andre looked like they were in the throes of love, or when Lory’s much-anticipated makeover session finally cast its face-smoothening “magic” spell on its beleaguered protagonist.
If it can happen to someone like Eya, then anything—and everything—is possible!