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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.

Jul 26, 2018

I Love You, Hater Movie Review: The Sheer Charisma And Winning Likability Of The Two Lead Help Carry The Movie

‘I LOVE YOU, HATER’ is the usual formula romantic comedy from Star Cinema starring a popular love team, this time, Joshlia, and as usual, they start as foes and eventually end up as lovers. Joshua Garcia is Joko, who’s working as a bus boy in a restaurant but his family in the province, who’s dependent on him, believes he has migrated to New York. What they don’t know is that he’s been duped by an illegal recruiter and now stays with a gay couple, Mark Neumann and Markki Stroem.

Julia Barretto is Zoey, the illegitimate child of a top lawyer (Ricardo Cepeda) who hides her from his legal family. Her mom has gone abroad and has a new family, so she just lives with friends. She just got her college diploma and now targets the position of being the personal assistant of the so called Digital Empress, Sasha Imperial (Kris Aquino.) But before she even gets to be interviewed by Sasha, as luck would have it, Joko already got the position.

Zoey won’t take this sitting down and makes a protest , saying she’s more fit for the job since a girl and reminds Sasha that she once said she won’t hire a man but only gays. Since the job comes with so many benefits and a huge monthly salary, Joko then pretends that he’s bading. Sasha then decides to take them both on a probationary basis and she’ll choose who the better assistant is after three months.

As maybe expected in this familiar kind of vehicle, the two protagonists eventually fall in love with each other. All the engineered plot machinations point to this. Sometimes, the manipulative techniques in the script are not convincing, like Kris Aquino hiring Joko instantly when he’s someone who she just met inside the elevator on the way to her office. But you have to suspend your disbelief to enjoy the ride.

Zoey can’t believe she’ll fall for a “bading” while Joko regrets that he pretended to be gay. And when Joko ultimately confesses the truth to her, she is outraged and reprimands him for being such a big liar. But we know everything will eventually be ironed out for the obligatory happy ending. What carries the film through is the sheer charisma and engaging competence of the two leads. All the obligatory “kilig” moments are there to please the fans and since they both play underdog characters, they both have touching scenes to showcase their sensitivity as actors.

As the unrecognized love child, Julia is so touching in the scene at the airport and at the wedding scene where she is spurned by her heartless biological dad. She also shines in her confrontation with Joshua and in her scene with Kris after she learned the truth. In turn, Joshua excels both in his comic and dramatic scenes. The first time he shows up at their office in “bading” get up, he doesn’t overact but just shows the nuances of being gay through his movements and facial expressions. His dramatic scenes with his father (Al Tantay), and later with Julia as he asks for her forgiveness, are also done persuasively. What’s nice about him is that he can do crying scenes without contorting his face at all.

As for Kris Aquino, she was obviously hired for the role because Sascha Imperial is not far from the real Kris at all since she also hosts her own digital show. So she’s just really playing herself, but she does manage to excel in her dramatic scene with her father (Ronaldo Valdez), who doesn’t recognize her anymore and thinks Joshua is her long dead brother named George. Kris doesn’t deliver any line but just reacts quietly, shedding buckets of tears, and it’s quite effective.

Since this is a Star Cinema flick, the casual plugs of some products cannot be avoided, just like a phone brand, some vitamins and even Iflix. The direction by Giselle Andres is not far from the way she handled her debut film, “Loving in Tandem”, which is also tailor made specifically for the MayWard love team. She’sjust lucky that she got more competent stars this time.

She makes good use of drone shots to show aerial scenes like Las Casas de Acuzar, EDSA and Guadalupe Bridge. The production design is fine, including the choice of Sasha’s office and the old house of Joko and family in Laguna. The choice of “Gusto Ko Lamang sa Buhay” by Itchyworms as the theme song is quite good, but it tends to be too repetitive and sometimes intrusive.