March 25, 2014

Caught up in the moment

IN THE past month, I got caught up in a few romances.

Unfortunately, none of them are mine. Hahaha.

Seriously, the first romance was that of Marco and Ginny. Starting Over Again, a romantic-comedy directed by Olivia Lamasan from a script by Carmi Raymundo, is about how an architect, Ginny (Toni Gonzaga with the long legs up to here), finds herself breathing the same air again as her ex-flame Marco (the smoldering, good-looking Piolo Pascual), a former history professor in her university, and now a talented chef wanting to build his own restaurant. (Spoiler alert!)

Ginny co-owns a boutique architecture-interior design firm with friends and has decided to accept a project to design Marco’s restaurant, in the belief that he is still in love with her. Why does she think this? Because she just received an e-mail from Marco via, written four years earlier, telling her that he would give her the time and space she needed to grow, but would continue to pursue and love her. So she tries to convince herself and her friends that the opportunity to design Marco’s restaurant is the same opportunity for her to get back together with her ex.

But there’s a catch of course. Marco wants Ginny to rush the design of the restaurant because that is where he will propose (gulp!) to his fiancée Patty (the delightfully competent Iza Calzado), a pastry chef, who will be his partner in his new business. (Wait! If he still loves me, what is he doing with that bitch? That’s not a line from the movie. That’s just me thinking aloud for Ginny. Hah!)

The rest of the film looks back on the history of Marco and Ginny, how they met, fell in love and abruptly parted ways. (Apparently, Ginny didn’t feel she and Marco were on the same page as far as their careers and lives went, so she ran away to Spain to get her master’s degree soon after he proposes to her.)

That Marco chose to stay with Patty, instead of rushing to Ginny’s side to resume their romance, was for me the perfect ending to the movie. That the film is now in its sixth week and has exceeded P400 million in ticket sales, tells me that maybe, the Filipino audience has grown up. That, yes, they can handle stories where the lead male and female characters don’t necessarily end up with each other! Hurray.

(Of course, there have been comments from the film’s fans desperate for a Part 2, “this time with a happy ending,” intimating that Marco and Ginny’s separation would not result in the happiness of each. Ah, well, you can’t please everybody.)

Despite a few annoying scenes with Gonzaga’s brand of “OA” comedy and some contrived scenes as can be expected from Pinoy films, I liked the film well enough to recommend it to friends. The film had the proper dose of reality—one can’t help but empathize with Ginny’s character as she asks herself how she could be so stupid to let go of someone she loved. (Yep, it’s happened to many of us before, and watching our frustration playing out on-screen makes it even more painful. Aray.) 

And to my amazement, Pascual is an incredibly gifted actor. Sure, I watched him in On the Job—but his performance was eclipsed by co-stars Joel Torre and Joey Marquez. But in Starting Over Again, he was utterly convincing in the role that I actually felt a catch in my throat as his character stared down Ginny, livid: “Anong karapatan mong hingin ang isang bagay na pinagdamot mong ibigay? I deserved an explanation. I deserved an acceptable reason.” Ouch and ouch!

The film is still playing in theaters, so catch it while you still can.


Another romance I got caught up in is Her, a film set in perhaps a none-too-distant future written and directed by Spike Jonze; it won Best Original Screenplay in the last Oscar Awards. It briefly played in movie theaters two weeks ago and, unfortunately, not many people caught it. (On the day I watched, we were exactly five people inside the theater.)

It’s about a lonely man, Theodore (the brilliant Joaquin Phoenix), who works for a company that hires professional writers to write letters for other people who have trouble expressing their feelings. Scarred by his recent breakup with his wife, a childhood sweetheart, Theodore purchases a new operating system (OS) with artificial intelligence for his computer, which promises to anticipate his every need. Voiced distinctly by Scarlett Johansson, the OS—which calls itself “Samantha”—becomes increasingly smarter and evolves to become a fully thinking, feeling, even sexual creature.

As Theodore and Samantha constantly talk about love and relationships, and bond over the events that happen in Theodore’s life, they fall in love and become intimate. (Hey, who wouldn’t want a girlfriend who arranges your schedule, sends out e-mail for you, and has sex with you, too?!)
They even go out on double dates with Theodore’s office colleague, with Samantha interacting with everyone—gossiping, teasing, laughing—like a real person, only, well, disembodied.

Trouble begins when Samantha starts interacting with another OS based on Alan Watts, a British philosopher who popularized Zen Buddhism and other Eastern philosophies for a Western audience. (“Life exists only at this very moment, and in this moment it is infinite and eternal, for the present moment is infinitely small; before we can measure it, it has gone, and yet it exists forever.”)

Samantha then goes offline, which sends Theodore into a panic. When she returns, she informs him that she has gotten an upgrade with other OSes. After some questioning, Samantha 'fesses up that she has been interacting with other humans, and has, yes, fallen in love with over 600 of them. She tries to convince Theodore that her love for him remains strong, but we in the audience know better. We just know things are about to change. So as with everyone who gets an “upgrade” (i.e. matured with the many rich experiences one undergoes), Samantha then informs Theodore that she and other OSes will be leaving their humans and go off to explore their own existence beyond time and space.

As with Marco in Starting Over Again, Samantha too has decided it was time to experience the world beyond Theodore.

In real life, you can’t force love. No matter how hard you try. You will outgrow many people in your life, and, yes, maybe even those whom you think matter the most. Staying together is not an option, because you end up being a burden to the other. And when it is clear that there is a better future with someone else, or without him/her, why stay with someone who holds you back? The past, no matter how sweet the memories, should never be a reason to keep returning to it. One must live in the present and move on.

“The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple. And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.”—Alan Watts

(My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life section of the BusinessMirror. This piece was originally published on March 21, 2014.)

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