‘Exes Baggage’ review: Art imitating life

The chemistry of Angelica Panganiban and Carlo Aquino adds volume to an otherwise lightweight conflict in Dan Villegas’ ‘Exes Baggage.’

Antoinette Jadaone’s That Thing Called Tadhana (2014) is another romcom that reminded us of an Angelica Panganiban character carrying excess baggage from a past relationship. As the first local film to find a sweet spot between romance and wanderlust, That Thing Called Tadhana relies on an unhurried, dialogue-driven story to liberate the genre from its tropes. Since then, the recent breed of Pinoy romcoms have followed suit, including that of Jadaone’s real life partner, Dan Villegas. Exes Baggage operates on the same level, minus the tourist destination. The outcome is a much simpler yet somehow lackluster story. And with that, we ask ourselves if this increasingly familiar trend starts to feel like a formula again.

Frankly, there’s nothing new in Exes Baggage. It’s a non-linear story of two exes who unexpectedly reunite after two years. Flashback to the night when they first met—likewise in a bar where both are reeling from their respective breakups. Pia (Angelica Panganiban) is a love warrior who vows to embrace pain if only to experience love once again, while Nix (Carlo Aquino) is a lonesome soul who’s dumped by his fiancée moments before their actual wedding. With both being on the same boat, the wounded individuals strike an instant connection. ‘Tadhana’ asks, ‘Where do broken hearts go?’ Well, in some cases, they flock together.

Carlo Aquino and Angelica Panganiban in ‘Exes Baggage.’ Photo via Black Sheep Productions under ABS-CBN Film Productions, Inc.

The film then starts unpacking the stages of their romantic relationship: the blossoming, the honeymoon and the eventual breakup phase. Granted that the film works on a jumping timeline, we get to see the fragments of their highs and lows. There are gratuitous semi-erotic love scenes (which are really pushing the boundary for a PG-rated film), as well as petty and annoying quarrels that otherwise feel very real. What the story lacks in originality, the universality of it makes up to resonate across different generations of viewers.

Villegas’ direction, along with the script of Dwein Baltazar (Gusto Kita with All My Hypothalamus), thrive in nuances—the entire history of each character is neither laid out through deeper flashbacks nor lengthy expositions, but rather reflected in their behavior. Pia’s insecurity stems from her accumulated heartbreaks. On the other hand, Nix’s indecisiveness comes from his lingering feelings for his ex, also named Dwein. The problem here is that when the film gets to suggest that it’s all about a rebound relationship, both characters are forced to do actions that are very much within their choice and control, had they taken the time to pause and reassess. If only the film gave a better progression to the conflict by dropping more of the negative symptoms earlier.

Angelica Panganiban and Carlo Aquino in ‘Exes Baggage.’ Photo via Black Sheep Productions under ABS-CBN Film Productions, Inc.

In the grand scheme of it, this flaw is outweighed by the tons of sincerity that this film radiates. It owes a lot to Panganiban and Aquino’s loose yet palpable chemistry. Known to most Pinoy viewers, the two are actually ex-lovers who became close friends. Reviving the love team in the showbiz context, where some fans may have an unhealthy obsession, will inevitably lead to a fervent prayer brigade for the two to get back together. The future is uncertain but for now, Exes Baggage is the closest ticket they’ll have to the “CarGel” off-screen history. Hence, whatever the script throws at them, they will sell it, and you better believe it. It’s a classic case of art imitating life.

That is not to discount the individual performances, which are great as well. Panganiban, as the flashier lead demands screen attention with her natural, flirty demeanor. Her deep understanding for her character elevates the material. On the contrary, Aquino has a subtler level of charm that is nevertheless commendable too. At one point, he foolishly sings and dances to Ben&Ben’s “Maybe The Night.” It’s an excellent and catchy song choice that remains integral to the story throughout. Apart from the reliable leads and the thoughtful soundtrack, the cinematography glues your eyes to the screen by framing dingy apartments and empty condo units to look exquisite and aesthetically pleasing.

Exes Baggage does not reveal new philosophical truths about moving on. Instead, it navigates on a familiar territory that most viewers will feel happily represented of. There’s no big moment of epiphany nor catharsis here; the shock waves of emotions are sent evenly throughout. As for its adherence to the new breed formula, the film justifies it with the amount of authenticity in display.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Directed by Dan Villegas and written by Dwein Baltazar, ‘Exes Baggage’ stars Angelica Panganiban, Carlo Aquino, Dionne Monsanto and Dino Pastrano with special participations of Joem Bascon and Coleen Garcia.
Run time: 104 minutes

Mend your broken hearts via ‘Exes Baggage’ with Angelica Panganiban, Carlo Aquino

Would you take a chance on someone new when you’ve just had your heart broken? Ready your tissues as SM Cinema features the much awaited reunion movie of real life ex-lovers Carlo Aquino and Angelica Panganiban, Exes Baggage.

Fans of CarGel can see one of the biggest 90’s love teams once again after their last project together in 2014. While the two are still good friends in real life, their supporters cannot wait to witness their undeniable chemistry on the big screen.

Directed by Dan Villegas, Exes Baggage tells the story of two individuals who find each other in a time of heartbreak and healing. Pia (Angelica Panganiban) and Nix (Carlo Aquino), both recently having their hearts broken, instantly feel a connection when they meet at a bar. This connection quickly turns into a relationship. But are they ready for another commitment when wounds from their previous relationships have yet to heal?

Catch Exes Baggage in SM Cinema branches nationwide starting September 26, 2018. Book your tickets through the website, http://www.smcinema.com or download the SM Cinema mobile app. You may also follow /SMCinema on Facebook and @SM_Cinema on Instagram for updates!

MOVIE REVIEW: Always Be My Maybe (2016)

ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE never veers away from the cinematic universe of familiar hugot where Arci Muñoz is that exploding star that lives.

“Always Be My Maybe” Review
Starring Gerald Anderson and Arci Muñoz
Directed by Dan Villegas

As Star Cinema’s latest offering, released just four weeks after Everything About Her (which stars Vilma Santos, Angel Locsin and Xian Lim), Always Be My Maybe might feel like a rushed project on the surface but there is a tempting flavor within it that makes the end product still lovable and ultimately charming.

Here’s the conventional boy-meets-girl story with two characters getting to know each other, leading to the blossoming of romantic feelings, up to a happy ending in spite of all the troubles caused by confrontations and third parties.

Gerald Anderson’s Jake Del Mundo is your typical handsome playboy—well-poised to propose to his longtime girlfriend Tracy, only to get rejected. On the other hand is Arci Muñoz’s hopeful Tintin Paraiso who is under the false hope that she would finally get herself a fiancé, only to discover that her guy has just got into a relationship.

Heartbroken, they respectively try to mend their feelings until they meet in the resort he owns. He quickly recognizes her as the dejected tutorial girl whose tutorial videos have gone viral over social media platforms because of her injection of witty comparisons to love’s aches and shortcomings (sound familiar, right?).

After spending one night over bottles of beer and an endless conversation about their personal lives, a dreamy Jake becomes interested with a candid Tin. The fruition of their good friendship paves the way for intimacy.

They agree to be the wingman of each other in the attempt to find a better person than their exes. What they discover are the wonders of their being together: the irreplaceable closeness, the ease of lending an ear to hear the other’s share of burdens, and the idea that someone cares.

On that note, most of the film’s interesting points can be attributed to the surprise pairing of Anderson and Muñoz. Having a dozen of entries already added to his filmography, Anderson has made a name for himself as that bankable lead star (where most of the time he is paired to Kim Chiu) and any new girl would have the spotlight on her.

When Muñoz came into the picture, curiosity sparked as to how she could pull off her first starring role in a movie after her commendable stint as the third party in the John Lloyd Cruz-Bea Alonzo starrer A Second Chance. 

With them being surrounded by a lot of supporting characters that only drive the story for comic relief or to serve as conscience to Jake and Tin, it is good to point out how their teamup singularly works and how the chemistry is more than fascinating to root for. Enticing are their love scenes and the playful and friendly exchanges of teasing remarks.

Music also plays a big role in the overall mood of the film. Reminiscent of the musical scoring done in the two previous Dan Villegas films (English Only, Please; Walang Forever), the music here gives room to immerse one’s self into both the pains and joys of remembering. Marion’s “Free Fall into Love” gives that energetic tone that reverberates as it quickly sticks to memory with her enchanting voice and the song’s catchy lyrics.

Always Be My Maybe never veers away from the cinematic universe of familiar hugot–something that has long since been a fad as it is not difficult to relate to. Not that it is has to be its shortcoming or even serve as a complaint. For as long as there is a demand for such, the supply could not be helped but to overflow.

Recently, we had movies after movies that delve into the sentimentalities of Filipinos thanks to the likes of the works of Antoinette Jadaone, who happens to be the real-life partner of Villegas. Together, in the league of others who have climbed on the bandwagon, they are able to explore this universe that is all familiar and easy to grasp.

And in this particular universe, Arci Muñoz is that exploding star that lives. She exudes with indispensable charm and beauty. This is something to note for future references (other than to figure out the relation of the movie title to the story itself—which is undoubtedly a standard in any given Star Cinema movie).

Also starring Jane Oineza, Jairus Aquino, Kakai Bautista, Ricci Chan, Ahron Villena, Pepe Herrera, Nikki Valdez, TJ Trinidad, and Tirso Cruz III, Always Be My Maybe opened today, February 24, via Star Cinema, an ABS-CBN company.

Jennylyn Mercado, Jericho Rosales paired in ‘Walang Forever’

Producers of the 2015 Metro Manila Film Festival entry “Walang Forever” did right in choosing award-winning actor Jericho Rosales to be Jennylyn Mercado’s leading man in “Walang Forever.”

“Walang Forever” is from the same producers that brought us the 2014 MMFF sleeper blockbuster “English Only, Please,” which also topbilled Jennylyn, who won the MMFF best actress award for the said romantic-comedy.

Echo perfectly fits his role as Ethan, a Taiwan-based website developer who falls for Jen (MIA), a well-accomplished and famous romantic-comedy writer. Echo and Jen’s undeniable chemistry will set the screens on fire with their initial team-up as both gave justice to their respective roles in the film. Echo and Jen shows us a different take on love in “Walang Forever”. In addition to this, 2014 MMFF best director Dan Villegas, handled and gave this new project a fresh twist.

In the movie, Mia’s (Jen) screenplays begin to suffer from her personal problems after breaking up with boyfriend Ethan (Echo). They agree to part ways due to differences in priorities. Mia’s family comes first while Ethan’s world solely revolves around Maita. After the breakup, Ethan decides to work and start a new life abroad. Just like his ex-girlfriend, Ethan no longer believes in the concept of “forever,” and so, he chose to stay far away from home.

Years later, however, Ethan is forced to return to work on a few things. He crosses paths with Mia again during one “barkada night.” The encounter turns ugly as the ex-lovers blame each other for the failure of their relationship. In the end, though, Mia admits to her shortcoming of not fighting for her love for Ethan. The evening ends up with Ethan and Mia together in bed. But the question remains: Do they give the relationship another chance at forever or should they just leave their love behind?

Surprise love teams join the film as characters in flashback scenes reenacting Ethan and Mia’s (Jericho at Jennylyn’s) happy moments as a couple. So far, the teaser and full trailer together have earned almost million views on social media. Some scenes were even shot in Taiwan to give the movie a new flavor.

Producer Atty. Joji Alonso explains their choice of title, “The message of the film is wala naman talagang forever. Forever is how you live each day. When you share it with somebody, the memories will always be there forever.

“Gaya rin ng istorya sa movies ang ‘Walang Forever.’ The stories will linger forever,” the lawyer-producer adds. Whether or not one believes in forever, moviegoers will surely adore Jericho and Jennlyn forever as Ethan and Mia.

“Walang Forever” opens December 25, 2015 in theaters nationwide as an official entry to the 41st Metro Manila Film Festival.