In My Perfect You, Gerald Anderson turns in the most brilliant performance, while Pia Wurtzbach is credible as a provincial lass and her beauty shines with minimal or no make-up at all.

A good past pluperfect
(The Philippine Star) - March 22, 2018 - 12:00am

Film review: My Perfect You

MANILA, Philippines — If John Lloyd Cruz, frightfully besotted right now with Ellen Adarna, decides to retire for good, he would already have an heir in Gerald Anderson. For indeed, in My Perfect You, Anderson turns in the most brilliant performance I have seen this year in local movies, bar none. Restrained, nuanced and multi-layered, he essays his role with extraordinary deftness and intelligence that I believe it is almost criminal how he was kept in comparative obscurity all these years, as compared with the usual suspects (JLC, Robin Padilla, Coco Martin, et al.).

In this latest opus of Cathy Garcia-Molina, Anderson plays Burn Toledo, whose life seemed to have turned from charmed to cursed almost overnight. A graphic artist who has been bestowed numerous awards for his works, he was spurned by his long-time fiancée in a most humiliating fashion when he publicly proposed to her. As it turns out, she had misgivings because his mother was clinically insane, and she feared he might have inherited it.

Depressed, Burn fails to function in his job, and is unceremoniously fired. Distraught, he goes on a road trip alone, and as his string of bad luck continues, he crashes his car into a tree. Staggering out of his disabled vehicle, he stumbles into the Happy Summer Camp, a nature resort that has definitely seen better days. Enter Abi, played by Pia Wurtzbach in equal parts kooky, cute and caring. She is the resort’s receptionist. She is also its owner, manager, bellhop, lifeguard and cook, as well as many others. “I can be whatever you want me to be,” she explains to a confounded Burn. Stuck in the middle of nowhere and with no money and no place else to go, Burn reluctantly checks into the ramshackle resort where, according to Abi’s sales pitch, “Kapag ikaw ay nag-check in, mahihirapan ka na mag-check-out, dahil serbisyo namin ay all-out.”

There’s no one on the resort but Abi and Burn; the rooms are also filthy, in disarray and there’s no running water and electricity. “Unli water!” Abi intones to Burn, motioning towards the river running through the resort. They both bathe together, with Abi trying to make the morose Burn smile every chance she gets, to his constant consternation. The idyll is broken by the arrival of three misfits: a dwarf, a bolo-wielding deaf man and a mulatto woman with a harelip. Abi explains that they used to be her staff, but she was forced to let go of them when business at the resort dried up.

This being a rom-com, the two leads would inevitably fall in love. But not without the reglementary hijinks. Burn does not have money to pay for his bills, but not to worry: Abi says he can pay with a smile. Not just any smile, but a “real smile.” At first weirded-out, Burn slowly warms up to the “game” after getting a monologue from Abi — says she was abandoned by her parents, and the three oddities with her have obviously been played a cruel joke by fate, but they smile on. Helping Abi and her ragtag team rehabilitate the place, he begins to heal himself, at the same time falling for Abi’s (and her resort’s) rustic charms.

Now comes the movie’s major plot twist, which I will not reveal here; however, depending on the viewer’s perceptiveness and familiarity with movie clichés, you may or may not see it coming. Suffice it to state that this “surprise” will explain a lot of things with respect to the film’s second act: Wurtzbach’s over-the-top acting, the surreal scenery and dialogue, and their apparent implausibilities. But those who have seen Adrian Lyne’s Jacob’s Ladder (1990), James Mangold’s Identity (2003) and/or Akiva Goldsman’s A Beautiful Mind (2001) would see the twist coming.

Garcia-Molina makes a good effort at presenting an increasingly maturing movie audience with something that, at first blush, appears to be a run-of-the-mill romance but with a sudden plot turn. She is helped in great measure, not only by the aforementioned excellent performance of Anderson but by Wurtzbach’s earnest efforts at acting. Credible as a provincial lass — albeit with well-plucked eyebrows — her beauty shines with minimal or no make-up at all. Lovely to look at and a trouper who had her start as a child actress, she of course does not (yet) possess the polish and practice of a Bea Alonzo or a Jennylyn Mercado, but she has potential. A few more movies, and a vocal coach to reign in her speaking voice which sometimes becomes shrill and nasal to the point of distraction, and she will surely get there.

The only major flaw is the film’s depiction of schizophrenia, which is, according to my best friend who is a medical specialist, quite inaccurate as to its treatment, and thus might mislead. A little more research in that area would have removed this blemish and made for more realism. The overly-pat ending also held the movie back from being a trailblazer; but then, this is a feel-good movie, after all, and certain sacrifices have to be made at the altar of commercialism.

In all though, My Perfect You strikes a happy balance as being one of Garcia-Molina’s last five “retirement” movies. Not a great movie, but at least, it will be looked upon fondly in retrospect years from now: a good past pluperfect.

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