Review: Cathy Garcia-Molina's UNOFFICIALLY YOURS
Perhaps the primary motivation for Cathy Garcia-Molina's Unofficially Yours is to craft a love story that has graduated from the conservative romances that the Catholic Church would give their blessings to. Not all love stories happily end with the first kiss. Some actually begin (and sometimes abruptly end) with a night of steamy intoxicated sexual intercourse. Garcia-Molina fluently communicates that motivation for the most part. She has her characters copulating without the blessings of an official relationship. Their coffee breaks hardly involve caffeine, just intense amounts of lust and sexual attraction. In a way, Garcia-Molina has successfully created celluloid-bound lovers who not only have romantic hearts but also working hormone-producing gonads.
Unfortunately, the demands of marketability prevents the film from truly being about men and women whose romantic escapades have been paved through one night stands and no-strings-attached agreements. Unofficially Yours eventually succumbs to formula. Explanations are snatched from thin air, rationalizing the behavior of the lovers, making it seem that traumatic past relationships are needed to develop a healthy hunger for sex. Of course, these explanations are there to lead towards the inevitable conclusion of the lovers establishing the so-called norm, abandoning whatever curious arrangement that had kept their libidos sufficiently satisfied for months.
Surely, Unofficially Yours is hardly successful in initiating something new within the stagnant supply of romantic comedies from the mainstream studios. The film is still in the vein of all the romances that came before it, whether those romances involved virginal teenyboppers or problematic yuppies. The core message about love and the contagious giddy feeling one gets from relating to that love remain the same. The only difference is that Unofficially Yours is sprinkled with more sex scenes.
The innovation of the entire rom-com formula however is not the point of the film. It is charm and the guiltless enjoyment one derives from that manufactured charm. Truth be told, Garcia-Molina gives that formula and the movie studio that swears by that formula the credibility they desperately need. She crafts these escapist gems by making most of those silly things called love teams, unmindful of any pretense or artistic ambition, removing at least partially the bad taste of falling completely for a film whose only real value is just to entertain.
Unofficially Yours is just immensely entertaining. Mackie (John Lloyd Cruz) is a dentist-turned-journalist who had a very memorable one-night stand with a very beautiful woman in Bali. That very beautiful woman turns out to be Ces (Angel Locsin), his mentor in his new job as a journalist. They resume their sexual trysts, with the agreement that there are absolutely no strings attached and that they are forbidden to fall in love with each other. Mackie however starts to fall for Ces, whose hardened exterior slowly but surely soften as Mackie starts wooing her with his genuine niceness.
Garcia-Molina makes most of the resources she's provided. Perhaps the biggest of these resources are her leads, Cruz and Locsin. From Close to You (2006) to Miss You Like Crazy (2010), Garcia-Molina has molded Cruz's onscreen persona as the man most women want their boyfriends to be and most men want themselves to be. By utilizing Cruz's less-than-perfect physique, evocative eyes, and considerable acting talent, she has created for Cruz a vulnerability that feels more genuine than anything else in the fantasies his characters thrive in. In Unofficially Yours, Cruz simply enunciates what makes him such a charming lead. Locsin, on the other hand, complements Cruz's overt appeal by being less animated, more subtle.
Garcia-Molina also taps into pop culture, creating a romance whose most fantastic elements are what make it irresistibly relatable. The characters sing pop songs to each other, revealing the unabashed sentimentality that these films thrive on. Garcia-Molina sufficiently understands that there is no point to withholding the goods that the films that she makes should peddle. She just dishes out everything, from the parade of quotable swoony lines to the gimmicks that are there purely for their pleasurable consequences, unhindered except by good taste. Garcia-Molina acknowledges the confines of her craft. She neither overreaches nor underachieves, creating a film that despite its lack of ambition and failure to push the envelope as advertised is more than forgivable for its many faults because the delights and charms it provides are too plenty and sometimes profound to ignore.
(Cross-published in Lessons from the School of Inattention.)
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