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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.

Feb 3, 2018

Changing Partners Movie Review: Well Acted Musical About The Universality Of Breakups & Heartaches Regardless Of Gender

‘CHANGING PARTNERS’ is based on a play with songs by Vince de Jesus, originally staged at a reading in the Virgin Labfest and later as a play by PETA. It then received funding from Cinema One and became a full length film, winning best picture, best director for Dan Villegas, best actor for Jojit Lorenzo and best actress for Agot Isidro when shown in its annual filmfest.

An intimate look into unusual romantic and sexual relationships, just like recent films “12” and “All of You”. It also reminds us of the off-Broadway play “The Last Five Years”. The film has a non-linear structure and there are two sets of actors playing major characters Alex and Cris who all break into song to express their inner feelings in crooned monologues.

At the start of the film, Sandino Martin cannot understand why characters in a musical suddenly break into song. Agot Isidro says that this is an effective way of expressing the emotions of the characters which they want to set free. Then they both start singing also about their own love affair.

There are two kinds of lovers featured in the film. First are those engaged in a May-December affair: Agot Isidro and Sandino Martin, then Jojit Lorenzo and Anna Luna. Agot and Jojit are 45 while their partners are 29.

Then there are the lovers in a gay relationship: Agot in a lesbian relationship with Anna, then Jojit and Sandino. All of them have been living together for six years and now, their relationships have become shaky because of jealousy and mistrust.

The older partners all have good jobs, so they’re the ones in a position of power since they hold the money bag, while the younger ones are all jobless and just dependent on their benefactors. All the younger ones have a friend named Angel, who we never see as they just fight over him or her. This Angel could be man or woman, and the older partners are feeling terribly insecure and jealous of this Angel person, leading to ugly scenes of confrontation and recrimination.

It quickly becomes apparent that all their relationships will end in an inevitable ugly breakup. What the film wants to say is that whatever gender you might have, the feelings of insecurity, jealousy, mistrust and even paranoia are all universal. If held unchecked, they ultimately erode a romantic relationship that usually starts well then deteriorates as years go by.

Since they’re the ones with more challenging roles as straight and gay, it’s but natural for Agot and Jojit to show a wider range of skills, shine more and easily eclipse their younger co-stars. They are both successful in giving separate nuances to their various roles. Agot is just perfect as the lesbian lover and as the older partner who both have very strong, assertive personalities. The same goes for Jojit, who’s so manly in registering his rage as the heterosexual lover, but betrays the gay-ness of his other character with simple nuances, avoiding to make the gay character a swishy one.

In all fairness to the younger stars, Sandino and Anna, both give competent performances in their respective dual roles. All of them are required to sing and they both deliver adequately. We just wish we get to care more for all the characters in the film. We can’t sympathize that they are involved in messy relationships. Ginusto nyo yan, e, di magdusa kayo. As the father in “Call Me By Your Name” suggests: just embrace your pain.

The play was originally written by Vincent de Jesus. For the film’s script, he’s assisted by Lilit Reyes. They make a fairly good adaptation for the big screen and the film version is beautifully helmed by Director Dan Villegas with some touches of wit and humor. He surely knows quite well how to expertly mine the strengths of editing and camera work in film as a medium to present on screen effectively what is basically a theatrical material.

The cutting is truly excellent, with the generally well crafted film jumping effortlessly from one different scene to another to forward the parallel stories being told on the big screen. It’s just sad that when we watched the film in a mall theatre, there were just about a dozen of us viewers watching it.

We admire Cinema One for bankrolling this film project since it’s already common knowledge that local musicals don’t do well at the tills, just like “I Do Bidoo”, “Emir” and the more recent “Larawan”.

Also, so many “hugot” films about problematic and failed relationships have saturated our theaters lately and quickly lost its appeal that moviegoers now seem to have gotten tired of them. Nakakasawa at nakakaumay na rin namang talaga after a while.

The edge of “Changing Partners” is the fine music it offers. The songs are better, more relatable and heartfelt than in “Larawan”, especially the melodies. But some lyrics are still so pedestrian you’d wish Vincent got a co-lyricist with a more satisfyingly poetic touch. We need songs that are not so literal (we hate that the word “tinatarantado” is used in one song) but still catchier, more meaningful and emotionally resonant to reflect the very private feelings of the characters.