It’s hard not to get skittish about the prospects of Alden Richards and Maine Mendoza parlaying the immense popularity and tweet-generating appeal of their AlDub TV tandem into box office gold.
How long can they continually milk their “kalyeserye’s” crowd-pleasing but ultimately restricting “Tamang Panahon” narrative conceit?
After all, Alden and Maine are no longer teenagers who have yet to come of age, so playing coy for much too long can eventually overstay its welcome.
Moreover, it certainly didn’t help that their 2015 Metro Manila Film Fest entry, “My Bebe Love,” had more kooky froth than romantic frisson.
But, in AlDub’s first solo showcase, “Imagine You & Me,” there’s good reason for their followers to celebrate, thanks to director Michael Tuviera. He knows how to utilize their serendipitous meetings, and cleverly does away with “My Bebe Love’s” musty comedic clutter—which was more harmful than flattering for the duo.
With that distraction out of the way, Tuviera manages to capture the pair’s potent chemistry and frame their characters’ love story with some of the loveliest and most gorgeously framed shots captured in any local film this year, courtesy of cinematographer Shayne Sarte.
Gara (Mendoza) is a cash-strapped OFW who juggles odd jobs—as the housekeeper of Terry (Irma Adlawan), and the dogsitter of leukemia-stricken Isay’s (Jasmine Curtis-Smith) pooch—in a picturesque Italian suburb by Lake Como. Life hasn’t been easy for her and her family, but she refuses to let her dire financial situation get the better of her.
However, Gara’s feisty personality and joie de vivre are no match for the sullen demeanor of Andrew (Richards), a broken-hearted med school student whose life has been put on hold by his great need for closure.
But, just when Andrew is won over by Gara’s catchy ebullience and Dubsmashing skills and finally decides to put an end to his yearlong moping, he discovers something about his newfound gal pal and her sick employer!
While it’s true that Maine’s perpetual grin is a boon for her “screen sweetheart” persona, it’s nonetheless bane for her growth as an actress. For much of the film’s introductory sequences, Maine is often caught “performing” for the camera or playing to the peanut gallery—which weighs down her attempt at characterization.
Maine is probably driven by a force of habit to keep every scene she’s in “fascinating.” But, it’s hard for any actress to “create” real character if she wants to please everybody all the time.
So, at some point soon in her acting career, Maine has to learn how to rein in her pushy “performing” excesses.
She works hard at her dramatic sequences, all right, but her portrayal lacks genuine believability and depth—which becomes more obvious in her often-tearless “emotional” moments with the luminous Jasmine.
Be that as it may, it’s hard to begrudge Maine her screen presence and likability, especially in her effective kilig scenes with Alden. It doesn’t hurt that she has the hilarious Kakai Bautista and Cai Cortez—who respectively play Vangie and Winona (her loud but lovable roommates)—to trade comic barbs with.
Alden does better, because his character’s dramatic arc doesn’t require complex shifting, so he manages to keep his portrayal consistent and plausible—until his character sees the error of his ways.
He is a swoon-worthy albeit brooding screen consort for love-struck maidens to dote on—and it isn’t hard to suspend disbelief that they will put his bedimpled smile back on his face again!
If you’re a hopeless romantic, this movie is for you: It’s easy to let its flaws and continuity gaffes slide, because it has attractive leads portraying star-crossed lovers, with sob stories that make them even more “relatable.” —Plus sparklingly breathtaking vistas that will sweep you off your feet, and make this celluloid fairy tale “aspirationally” appealing!