I don’t know what to say about Cathy Garcia-Molina’s My Amnesia Girl , her latest romcom romp starring John Lloyd Cruz and Toni Gonzaga, except that I must be honest: I seriously liked it.
It does not pretend to be a serious film, but one knows that from the get-go: when was the last time Star Cinema dared to do serious filmmaking? In the 1990s, they did, in spades–but later found a gold mine in fluff. Commerce will always triumph artistry in the spoiled landscape of ABS-CBN’s universe. But sometimes, there comes fluff that succeeds despite itself, despite the formula. My Amnesia Girl happens to be one of those lucky few.
While a claim has to be made that this has to be the cheesiest film ever put into production, and apparently by design–something about it makes it works marvelously. Is it its surprisingly deft juggling act of comic zing and romantic earnestness? Or the fact that it unapologetically wears its heart on its proverbial sleeve, but does it with a dose of warm and earthly charm that shield us from the cringe-worthy assortments of its many fairy tale segments?
What seems important is that our enjoyment is earned. In the theater I was in, I could feel the pulsating energy of the people responding to it in fits of laughter and cycles of Kleenex-muffled tears. (When Noel Cabangon’s rendition of Di Na Natuto came in midway through the film, it proved to be the final straw. The sniffles became epidemic.) I was right there along with them, having surrendered easily to the film’s conceit: a young woman pretends to have an amnesia as she deals with the return of the man who has jilted her at the altar.
Before its release, the film drew instant comparisons to Peter Segal’s 50 First Dates  and Jae-Young Kwak’s My Sassy Girl –but it surprises us by finally not being a rip-off of either, and instead charges its way to our hearts with its heedless deluge of cinematic confectionary. I cannot say, however, that is completely original: you see traces of “inspiration” culled from beloved movies past, including the ones mentioned earlier and then some–like the string-on-finger sequence from Chris Columbus’s Stepmom . Nor is it unpredictable: I could guess the kind of ending it would come to from miles away. (Then again, the films from Star Cinema from the last decade or so have never been known for their good endings.)
Still we are forgiving of its borrowings in particular because it does so in a fresh way that redeems the act and elevates the final product to new light. We are also actually delighted by the sugar rush it induces. Why is that? For the most part, it helps that the characters are ably played by actors with such undeniable depth. Ms. Gonzaga has a quirky likability to her that makes her roster of movie roles shine with a note of the plausible, even when she seems to go all-out for the cutesy all of the time; her impeccable comic timing, however, is what draws us in. And she has her little moments, too–those telling shifts in acting tones that are subtle, difficult to achieve, and easily ruined by sheer lack of talent. (Take note of the derisive laughter that greeted Kris Aquino’s frightened face in the trailer for Dalaw.)
But it is Mr. Cruz who commands our attention. What can be said about an actor who basically plays an asshole–but makes us root for him nonetheless? Already the unlikely matinee idol of contemporary Filipino cinema, he can do no wrong these days: he has a seasoned thespian’s gravity and star power that reminds me of Meryl Streep, but it is a power that he wields by not drowning out and outshining the efforts of the others around him; instead, he reinforces the ensemble effort in scenes that call for it. Consider for example the fact that the chorus of supporting characters that surrounds Mr. Cruz is still indelible in our immediate memories of the film–particularly the comic antics of Joross Gamboa and JM de Guzman, both of whom were revelations.
What I cannot forgive, however, is the uneven command that Ms. Molina has for the technical aspects of this otherwise winning film, considering the tremendous resources that must be at her disposal as her studio’s primary directorial talent. The film simply does not look polished, even from the first frame when the Star Cinema logo comes out. The cinematography is awful, the editing is blah.
What finally saves it is the acting, and the nimble screenplay by Carmi Raymundo, Jade Castro, and Miguel Sevilla who do the fantastic job of concentrating all the cheesy kilig love jokes ever made–and make them work without straining our patience and our anti-diabetic buffers.