Sunday ∗ 03 Jan 2010

hello, i love you (goodbye!)

Or when Derek Ramsey just ain’t enough.

There are many good things about I Love You Goodbye really, including of course the fact that Derek Ramsey exists in it at all. It did want to talk about the travails of a May-December affair, as it did try to highlight the problematique of class when it comes to love, as it did use as premise the necessity of migration in the creation of a young Filipino couple’s dreams. With all of these issues integral to its plot, this movie could’ve undoubtedly gone beyond the usual commercial movie formula — something I always have high hopes for.

But this movie, more than anything, is proof of how a badly written story, is really just a badly written story, despite all efforts at making it more substantial – and even when the only meat you get is some of Derek’s bare naked back.

A well-written story after all, requires a complexity in its characters that this movie doesn’t have. You prove this through the fact that it was most difficult to suspend disbelief about someone Gabby Concepcion’s age (what, in his 40s?) falling for someone Angelica Panganiban’s age (in her 20s), alongside the fact that Angelica was a waitress and he a doctor; or that someone Derek Ramsey’s age would even imagine using someone who looks sixteen (Kim Chiu, yes despite the thick make-up and more mature clothes) to get to Angelica, who was the love he left behind. Even the whole Kim-Chiu-is-now-an-adult was a stretch here.

But more than the obvious age differences, it really was about character development. Adrian (Concepcion) is moving from one marriage to the next, and yet he doesn’t have it in himself to share with Lizelle (Panganiban) what was going on in his career. The movie would have the audience su bsist on the line “hindi rin naman niya maiintindihan” as if his getting suspended from work is that difficult for a wife to understand, regardless of her being an ex-waitress. This refusal to communicate also seemed downright stupid owing to the fact that for most of the movie, Lizelle is furnishing a newly-bought house for their future married life, and made it a point to talk about how everything – everything – was Adrian’s (the car, her money). So the suspension wasn’t supposed to affect her at all? Anuba. Parang wala namang pinagkatandaan itong lalaking ito, hindi ba?

And really, as it was, Lizelle seemed to be the most evolved of all the characters in this movie, so why was she not supposed to understand? She, at least, was allowed to evolve from one boyfriend to the next; seemed to be in love, really, with both Adrian and Gary (Ramsey) at different points in the story; seemed to honestly want for things to work out between her and stepdaughter-to-be Ysa (Chiu). The thing was that not much was established about Lizelle’s love, owing to the fact that she wasn’t allowed to have a real personality here. Other than a girl in love, and in love with the notion of love as her end-all and be-all.

So at one point she seemed like she was living like a doña in Adrian’s house, the next thing we know she is serving Ysa and her guest Gary some dinner (as if it was catered), and the next she is wanting to remove Adrian’s shoes and put on his slippers ala Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. And then she gets to be alone with Gary and is able to talk about her dreams of love as simple and true and possible – complete with an eatery to make sure her children don’t go hungry.

At this point it would’ve seemed most powerful had Lizelle gone either way: chosen this older man who was going to give her all the financial security in the world (oblivious as he kept her to his career in crisis) and fulfill all her dreams in the process, or chosen the man she had built dreams with, who saw in her a person and not just a stereotype.

But of course as all Star Cinema movies go, particularly the ones where a girl will have to choose between two men, the endings (if not the premises) become convoluted towards the goal of the happiest ending possible. I Love You Goodbye, was not to be saved by, yes, four writers, 12 script consultants (or so, according to the credits), and Laurice Guillen as director.

Lizelle decides to run away with Gary, but he is doesn’t arrive at the bus station. The next thing we know, she is in tears, accepting Adrian’s marriage proposal complete with getting down on her knees and giving him the engagement ring to put on her finger. Cut to the day before her wedding, a lawyer comes to show her Gary’s will and testament, and proof that the latter had died on the day they were suppose to meet. Cut to Lizelle’s and Adrian’s confrontation scene, and the unfolding: Adrian had confronted Gary on the day he and Lizelle were running away. In the midst of confrontation, Gary runs into a speeding car, and is dead-on-arrival at the hospital.

Adrian explains: he had seen pictures of Lizelle taken by Gary, and he became jealous. Not because she had been with Gary, but because he had never seen Lizelle look so happy, and so free.

And Lizelle breaks down and says sorry. She says sorry. To Adrian. For putting him through that ordeal.

What is sadder than the fact that Lizelle must say sorry, is that the story must end this way. With Lizelle’s decision to go for a love that sees her as a person, being rendered moot by the death of Gary. And with showing her as an unrepentant girl, in love with somebody else, but willing to marry the guy who’s there. It establishes as a fact what Adrian’s mother thought of her all throughout the movie: that she was just a desperate girl, with nowhere to go without a man.

It would’ve been great to see Lizelle taking a stand, and refusing to be undecided. To see a protagonist such as her, not compromising on love, or on what she deserved in relation to it. Throughout the movie, it wasn’t clear that she even had a voice in that relationship with an older man, and yet without the conflict of an old love, she was ready to settle. That old love – dead as he would become – was supposed to show her that she didn’t need to settle yes? That there are certain loves to aspire for, particularly when these loves are about being seen as a person versus being seen as a stereotype, being seen as a woman with a personality versus one who fits the role of wife and mother.

Oh, but maybe that was too much to ask from Star Cinema, which seems bent on making movies where women say sorry for wanting some personality, needing some freedom, demanding some respect. In this day and age, even with more empowered women characters, all it wants to tell us is to apologize for having a sense of self.

Without more of Derek Ramsey’s body in this movie, this really was nothing but a waste of this woman’s hard-earned cash.

Posted in: kawomenan, kultura, pelikula, review

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