New way of seeing–and storytelling
Many local romantic-comedy film romps keep their proceedings hectic, frenetically fun-filled and peopled by many loud and “colorful” supporting characters, all (hopefully) resulting in a sustained, heady high.
By that dizzy, ditzy yardstick, Sigrid Andrea Bernardo’s new film, “Kita Kita,” is a radical and even genre-threatening departure.
Writer-director Bernardo’s movie rigorously focuses mostly on its two leads—Alessandra de Rossi as a “temporarily blinded” OFW in Hokkaido, Japan, and Empoy Marquez as her nosy, nerdy kababayan, who initially turns her off with his intrusive and unwelcome interest in her, but eventually—saves her from herself!
Keeping the entire feature film interesting and involving with “just” its two protagonistic portrayals is a dauntingly tall order, but Bernardo pulls it off most of the time. She’s savvily chosen two gifted players who surprisingly “click” despite their all too obvious disparities.
This is more than just “screen chemistry” at work, it’s veritably “thespic nuclear fission”—and fusion—in full, inspired and amazing display!
Even better, De Rossi and Marquez do it without acting up a giddy, hectic, comedic storm, evincing the thespic confidence to trust the script and the storytelling to do the “pushing” for them.
On the debit side, the film’s first half feels a little “isolated” and isolating, because it lacks sufficient “backstory” to clue us in on what makes these two idiosyncratic people tick.
But, it’s soon revealed that the lack of context is intended because the movie’s second half is the explicatory backstory we’ve been looking for.
It turns out that the two “accidental friends and lovers” confluence is no accident at all! More, we cannot say, so it’s for viewers to find out for themselves (no spoilers here).
To be sure, this “mystery belatedly explained” format could strike some people as too artsy or intentionally “set up” to be organically involving. Indeed, some of its “explications” are too pat to feel natural.
For our part, however, we find, as the second half “enlighteningly” unfolds, that we’re willing to “take” the occasional artsiness and thematic “semaphoring” as minor distractions.
In our view, the filmmaker’s daring and even risky format-tweaking gambits are significant efforts to liberate the loud and ditzy rom-com movie genre from some of its off-putting “requirements,” which are actually its limitations.
Yes, some revelations are too neatly explicated “after the fact” to make the protagonists’ unusual relationship “logical” and even “fated,” but the risk has been worth it.
De Rossi is a proven talent, but “Kita Kita” is still a career-enhancing feather in her cap because it underscores her versatility.
But, the big revelation here is the heretofore underutilized Marquez, who’s finally given a significant lead role to “force” him to come out of his comedic shell.
Yes, he sometimes overplays his whimsical, hangdog, “Chaplinesque waif” card, but he shows that he’s got other things going for him—like being able to carry a scene without “playing it funny” at all.
That separates the true exponent of the “tragicomedy of life” from all the “silly slapstickers” out there, and gives Empoy Marquez’s heretofore “urong-sulong” career—a new lease on stellar life!