The thing with a movie like this one is that it promises a kind of darkness. Con artist Greg (played flawlessly by Alex Vincent Medina) and his gay “handler” Marney (played by Joey Paras on painfully loud and angry mode) are preying on the more gullible gays and women on Facebook. The goal is to gain their trust, move from Facebook to mobile phone calls, make them fall in love, get some cash out of them, then conveniently disappear with the change of a sim card.
The task is premised on the creation of a fictional character, Bam Fernandez, the Facebook persona of Greg. This distinction between the real and the fictional is something that the movie’s storytelling holds onto for dear life.
It is also its undoing.
Because there seemed to be a need to push how real reality can be. That is, by having some crazy sex – and some violence – between Greg and his girlfriend, some masturbation, some growing tension between Greg and Marney, a Marney as scary gay man stereotype who is victimizing Greg, too. With this kind of reality there was really no need to highlight how the fictional is exactly so. And yet the film’s imagined characters and the worlds they navigate look fictional – the conversations sound fake, the settings are contrived.
As such we know within the first 20 minutes of the film what it is trying to do. The deception is solved and the darkness is nothing but imagined.
Yet in that darkness, there is love. “Babagwa” throws that into the mix by having Greg fall in love with his victim Daisy (Alma Concepcion), which leads to the unraveling of his relationship with Marney. The latter as unforgiving. These instances though are not properly contextualized in this film, and it is unclear what these characters’ motivations were. What made Greg fall in love with Daisy? What made Marney so angry in general, so mean to Greg in particular?
Without a sense of the history that exists between Greg and Marney, without a sense of what is going on in Greg’s head when it came to speaking with Daisy, what we are left with is a film that’s going through the motions of telling a story, the unraveling of which it thinks the audience has yet to figure out.
But the biggest problem of “Babagwa” is the fact that while its whole story is premised on Facebook, while its characters are all about the fiction that they create of themselves on social media, we do not see what those Facebook accounts look like. That is, we do not know what it was about Bam Fernandez that made him believable at all, what his FB profile says, what it is that appears on his timeline, and how much of that is controlled by Marney.
To have failed at showing us how social media is being used for deception, when that is what’s at the core of this film? That has to be its biggest failing.
“Babagwa” is written and directed by Jason Paul Laxamana, produced by Josabeth Alonso, Ferdinand Lapuz, Minda Ponce Rodriguez and Chad Cabigon.