MANILA, Philippines – Ever since Astro Mayabang (2010), it seems director Jason Paul Laxamana has been obsessed with outward appearances and how Filipino society normally puts a premium upon them. The film, which tackled a young man who literally wears his Filipino pride wherever he goes, is a blunt and rather obvious commentary on the shallowness of popular nationalism, which feels more like a product of mass media and consumerism rather than actual patriotism.
Laxamana’s second feature, Babagwa (2013) involvd a petty crook who lures wealthy, lonely women on the Internet to give him money in exchange for promises of romance. Again, Laxamana has characters that are consumed by image, which in this case, is imagined via the machinations of social media. With a taut and tight narrative that gives way to observations that are too familiar to be comfortable, the film offers an entertaining yet troubling look into lives that are dominated by both the need to connect and the fantasy of being able to do better than what reality can meagerly provide.
Fitting into a formula
Love is Blind, although tonally different from Laxamana’s first two features, has characters molded from the same obsession over the stark differences between reality and fantasy, and what ordinary people are capable of doing to bridge them together. The film, however, limits itself to the escapist endeavors of commercial cinema, turning its inherently flawed characters into cutesy stereotypes with forced amiability rather than tragic figures with deserved comeuppances.
Fe (Kiray Celis), an intern in a hotel, admits to having an unappealing appearance, which she blames for her being sad and lonely.
She immediately falls in love with Wade (Derek Ramsay), a freelance model who is being forced by his dad to take over their farming business.
Wade however is in love with Maggie (Solenn Heusaff), his girlfriend who he can’t exactly parade around his friends because she prefers simplicity to glamor. (READ: Exes Derek Ramsay, Solenn Heussaff on working together 9 years after breakup)
To fix her dilemma, Fe pays part-time masseur and full-time vendor of love charms Yari (Kean Cipriano) to concoct a potion that will make her look like the most beautiful women in the eyes of Wade.
Her plan works. She becomes the spitting image of Maggie soon after Wade drinks the potion, at least in his eyes. Everybody else only sees Fe, the imperfect girl who is supposedly lucky enough to be desired by near-perfect Wade.
That is essentially the running gag of Love is Blind. A bulk of the film’s humor is centered on the seemingly mismatched pairing of Celis and Ramsay.
Laxamana peppers the film with purposefully awkward scenes that showcase the contrasting lovers in compromising situations, and they are all admittedly hilarious, mainly because Celis performs with such unmatched earnestness that it is impossible not to get swayed by her impassioned giddiness upon the fulfillment of her wildest fantasies.
However, when Love is Blind is trying to make sense out of its comedy, it plainly falters. The film is struggling to be romantic. Its characters are either obnoxious or underdeveloped. Fe is frantically desperate. Wade wades with an air of privilege. Yari is gullible and clueless. Maggie is flat and unconvincing.
The relationships that develop between the characters are sudden and convenient, lacking the development that would have made everything believable, or at the very least, logical.
More importantly, the characters are people who do not deserve happy endings, or if they do, they need comeuppances that would erase the stench of their unpleasant personalities. Sadly, Laxamana breezes through the romance, relying heavily on the ease provided by his narrative’s clever conceit to arrive at a happy ending that feels grossly unwarranted.
The truth is that it is far more complicated than that. The film would have been wonderful if Laxamana were not too keen on coloring the film with manipulative pleasantries and instead pushed for a vulgar romance, one that doesn’t pretend to be sweet and of the same vein as the ones that we have become accustomed to. With characters capable of tricking people into loving them or declaring love for another person before offering another person a night of unforgettable lovemaking, the film seems to say that love is not just blind, it is also arbitrary. – Rappler.com