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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

May 10, 2016

My Candidate Movie Review: Derek, Iza And Shaina Deliver Sterling Performances In A Different Kind Of RomCom

“My Candidate” is a romantic comedy that is not in any way a metaphor or satire aiming to offer any thought-provoking insights about the current state of local politics. If you want something like that, watch “Spinning Boris” instead. Or “Bob Roberts”. In “My Candidate”, it just so happens that the lead male character is a congressman, Sonny (Derek Ramsay), who is now running for the senate. His good looks make him a viable candidate, but unlike other oily politicians who’ll say or do anything just to humor news people and TV viewers, he is very candid and honest in expressing his own views and feelings, to the point of being tactless.

To tame him, the people running his political career opt to hire a communications expert/ trouble shooter to be his personal coach in public speaking. Tasked to give him a makeover so he’d be more appealing to the voters as a Mr. Nice Guy is Billie (Shaina Magdayao), whose role is somewhat like the political consultant role played by Sandra Bullock in “Our Brand is Crisis”, but in a much less serious manner. Billie helps other people iron out their problems but, ironically, she herself has a messy life and has spent one year in rehab. In this kind of movie, it’s easy to expect that sparks will soon fly between Sonny and Billie.

“My Candidate” is the directorial comeback of Quark Henares, whose most watchable movie for us remains to be his debut, “Gamitan”, an echo of “Cruel Intentions”. His creative producer for “My Candidate” is Dan Villegas, who was once his student and who has since made an enviable track record in coming up with endearing romcoms like “Walang Forever” and “Always Be My Maybe”. Alas, the student’s work remains to be more effective than his teacher’s. In all fairness to Quark though, “My Candidate” is quite well crafted and he maintains a lively pace and a light entertaining tone throughout.

In “My Candidate”, the characters are quite well developed, but somehow, we don’t really care that much as to what will happen to them. Unlike the way we care for Jericho-Jennylyn in “Walang Forever” or Gerald-Arci in “Always Be My Maybe” whose roles were endowed with more depth so we get to empathize more with them. But still, Derek and Shaina deliver solid performances in their respective roles.
Derek is really getting better and better in each new movie he does and he nails his role here as a well meaning young politician perfectly. Shaina is quite a revelation, as Billie is so far from her usual weepy screen persona. She shines as the perky life coach but she should have shed off a few more pounds before starting the shoot as her double chin can sometimes be quite distracting.

As usual, the ever reliable Iza Calzado gives excellent, strong support (like she did in ‘Starting Over Again’, ‘Etiquette for Mistresses’, ‘Barber’s Tales’) as Derek’s ex-girlfriend who has dumped him and is now his chief rival for a seat at the senate. What’s nice about Iza is she’s always an absolute joy to watch and she makes it all look so effortless.

The movie is meant mainly to be amusing and is peppered with characters aimed to make us laugh. One flashy character that works is Ketchup Eusebio as Shaina’s friend who’s always feeling “guwapo”. He certainly revels in the absurdness of his scene-stealing role. He has a scene in his skimpy underwear that garnered some well deserved guffaws from the audience and will remind you of Rhys Ifans in “Notting Hill”. Also quite impressive is Nico Antonio as Derek’s effeminate but driven chief of staff.

Unfortunately, the two sidekicks of Nico named Happy and Jay, who are meant to be comic foils, are not as striking in tickling us as a pair of obnoxious loonies. Their characters might seem funny on paper, but sadly on screen, they don’t produce the obvious desired hysterically uproarious results meant to be achieved by the director. They actually come out more irksome than hilarious.

The movie has an ending that is not a sure crowd pleaser. If Star Cinema made this, it would have a more commercial ending to make sure viewers come out of the theatre feeling good and with a wide smile on their faces. But this is Quantum Films of Atty. Joji Alonso and they want to have their own unique brand of movies different from those made by the Star Cinema factory. Remember, in their last release, the hero died. No, the hero here doesn’t die here like what happened to Spencer Tracy as the ill fated candidate in the classic election campaign film, “The Last Hurrah”, but something else happens to him.

And we’re sad because Sonny is an innately good person and well intentioned public servant who deserves a much better fate. Of course, we won’t spoil your viewing pleasure by telling you outright what happened to him. You have to watch the movie and find out for yourself how Derek Ramsay as Sonny fared in the movie’s differently flavored conclusion.