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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 2, 2017

Luck At First Sight Movie Review: It Works Thanks To The Fine Direction Of Dan Villegas And The Relatable Performances Of The Two Leads

THERE HAVE been entertaining movies before about luck, like “Just My Luck” in 2006 where Chris Pine and Lindsay Lohan got to exchange their good fortunes with each other by mistake, and “Good Luck Chuck” in 2007 where Dane Cook is a cursed man who cannot find the right woman until he meets Jessica Alba. We now have a local movie about luck, “Luck at First Sight”.

This is directed by Dan Villegas and we’re happy to report that he gets to redeem himself after the disaster that was “Ilawod”, a supposed horror film that is not scary at all so it understandably bombed at the tills. “Luck at First Sight”, more than anything else, is a triumph of his directorial skills since the story is so wafer thin and it’s his treatment that makes all the difference.

Jericho Rosales as Joma is a gambler whose debtors are all after his neck. He wants to win big time to be able to pay for the mortgage of his parents’ old house that they lost because his late dad himself is an incorrigible gambler. Bela Padilla as Diane is the devoted daughter of Dennis Padilla who can hardly make both ends meet managing their family-owned neighborhood drug store. To make things worse, her dad suffers from kidney failure and needs expensive medical treatment.

A fortune teller advises Joma that he should have a life charm to win when he gambles. By chance, he meets Diane and notices that when they’re together, good things do happen, so he offers her to be his partner when he makes bets. She agrees, reluctantly at first, but then they start winning big and they become good partners.

But there’s a catch. They’re not supposed to fall in love with each other, or their good luck will just fade away. It’s easy to guess that as they get to know each other better, they couldn’t help but develop deeper feelings for one another, leading to some unpleasant complications.

In the hands of a lesser director, such simple material that doesn’t seem rich with side-splitting possibilities can easily dissipate into something boring and totally forgettable. But Villegas as a director has done flimsy romcoms before that he succeeded in turning into fairly engrossing films about relationships, like “Always Be My Maybe” and “How to Be Yours”.

In “Luck at First Sight”, he makes the luck angle an appealing linchpin in telling the love story of two unlikely would be lovers. Scenes could have easily been cheesy but he gets them to be properly nuanced, persuasively blocked and beautifully acted by the two leads. Yes, he gets vastly appealing performances from both Jericho and Bela.

He has worked effectively with Echo before in “Walang Forever” and once again, he gets to allow Echo to turn on his easy charms full blast and they seem to bloom even more when it’s Villegas who’s directing him. The finale of “Luck”, where the two main characters are reunited after not having seen each other for sometime, is similar to that of “Always Be My Maybe” between Gerald Anderson and Arci Munoz.

But this one of Echo and Bela Padilla is more difficult to do since it’s staged in a public place at Eton Centris. The way it’s conceived, constructed and blocked by Villegas really hits all the right notes, thanks also to the very relaxed and fine performances of the leads who come across as real people with relatable problems, particularly Echo who carries the scene mainly.

We’re really wondering why Star Cinema, which may be considered Echo’s home studio since he’s officially with ABS-CBN, has not tapped this side of Echo since he did those Kristine Hermosa hit romances in theirs teens. He may be 37 now but Echo certainly looks much younger than his age and when it comes to acting, we honestly believe he’s the most endearing and well rounded in the Kapamilya stable, whether he’s doing heavy drama or hilarious comedy.

As for Bela Padilla, we’ve known her since she was Krista Sullivan with Star Magic but she has never really impressed us with her acting. It was GMA-7 that gave her her first and only starring role in an afternoon soap, “Magdalena”. She played supporting roles in mainstream films like “10,000 Hours” and “Felix Manalo”. The lead roles she did were in indie films like “Tomodachi” and “I America”, then she steals her scenes as one of the leads in the surprise hit, “Camp Sawi”, which she co-wrote and co-produced.

She now finally gives herself the chance to play the solo lead in a mainstream romance like “Luck”, which she also co-wrote and co-produced, and she does shine brightly as Diane who proves to be a good influence on Joma and makes him a better person. Bela really comes on her own in this film, pulling off the part and doing both her comic and dramatic scenes exceedingly well to make her Diane quite adorable.

We thought she wouldn’t have much chemistry with Echo but yes, they do have that spark necessary to make a screen tandem work. Providing them good support are Cholo Barretto and Kim Molina as the usual gleeful wisecracking sidekicks, with Hermie Go also making quite an impression as the petulant fortune teller who introduces Echo to the eye of the mountain Buddha as his good luck charm. The film tends to be sluggish in some scenes that need tightening, but all in all, it’s the most entertaining romcom we’ve seen since “I’m Drunk I Love You”.