Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Very Special Petri Dish

Ah, love. Love! What's better than love? Why, A Very Special Love. And just what's so special about the love portrayed in this 2008 Filipino blockbuster starring superstar Sarah Geronimo? Well, who would believe that a wealthy and handsome young man and his gorgeous, virginal secretary whose personal philosophy dictates that she obey this man she's obsessed with in all things and overlook all of his flaws could ever end up together? How could you not root for these underdogs?

I watched this movie on a dare after discovering its existence through Wikipedia's "random article" feature. It's not nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be, actually. It's deeply conservative and rigidly formulaic but sort of charming.

The closest film I could compare this to is Mariah Carey's Glitter and A Very Special Love shines in the contrast. I suspect this is largely due to American complacency. Where Mariah Carey comes off at all times high strung and tight lipped, Sarah Geronimo has a genuine smile. However bad the movie was, I couldn't help laughing or cringing with her in her attempts to get close to her boss.

The story couldn't be less imaginative--it's the standard progression of poor working class girl attempts to draw the eye of her aristocratic idol, he tolerates her with mild bemusement before blowing up at her in one scene, then feeling guilty, then there's the scene where she takes care of him while he's sick, and one day he realises she means more to him than his endless string of beautiful but high maintenance girlfriends. Then of course there's the Test of Their New Love that occurs two thirds through the movie, in this case the stress of his (Miguel's) men's magazine failing and him taking out his self hatred by yelling at her for loving him unconditionally. And finally there's the tearful reconciliation outside during a rainstorm.

Miguel's story is that his mother was the mistress of his wealthy father and he's never felt like he's had the love and acceptance of his multiple half-siblings, sons of his father's wife. He's basically Jon Snow and interestingly the Philippines appear to be almost as old fashioned as the world depicted in Game of Thrones.

This is even more apparent in the story of Geronimo's character Laida whose mother consoles her, when it looks like Laida and Miguel are on the outs, that at least her virginity's in tact so she has something to give her true love when she meets him eventually. Laida's family is poor, her parents and many siblings crammed into three or four rooms. In one scene Laida's mother casually uses the toilet while her daughter's in the bathroom.

Laida's family is one of the things that reminded me much of a Bollywood movie family--there's the goofy dad, the mom with special wisdom, and the little brothers and sisters who have a couple token moments of squirreliness at the beginning before settling into roles as repositories of love and support for their big sister.

This is in contrast to Miguel's relationship with his family. Laida's family may be poor, but since her mother didn't have premarital sex they're rich in traditional values that make their minds much healthier. So healthy that Laida can redeem a lost soul like Miguel just by loving him so much.

So. A Very Special Love is unrealistic, insults your intelligence and probably your lifestyle, and adheres to formula like fly paper. But it's kind of cute.

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