A large family wedding provides the framework for the portraits of love, fraternal or otherwise. Playing the suave brother, Dante enters a rom-com premise of reconnecting with an old flame, falling in love on a pre-wedding business trip to the Philippines. While this “lucky” chases a dream girl, the elder (Derek) chases a rooster in a wacky caper with the best of intentions and a hilarious final beat. The heartbroken brother (Darion) hesitantly gives romance a second chance, while the group’s goofball (Dionysio) voraciously pursues crazy relationships. Their sister knits their hijinks together through a voiceover that celebrates while gently berating, bracing for a climax that is suitably outrageous, chaotic, and sweet.
The wedding framing works well, reserving the comedy in dynamic contexts that easily flaunt Filipino culture in tradition, language, family, and delicious food. Sweeping cinematography rushes us into the party, across the house, seriously showcasing the vibrant clan and welcoming us as one of their own. As a director, Dante shows skill in creating the atmosphere of a place, whether it is a sultry paradise, a moving dance hall, a bustling house, or an unstable part of town. Arianna’s voiceover adds context and color commentary, while the rest of the cast comes in to star in silly, heartfelt footage.
Derek deploys a low-key comic character, the straight man caught in a crazy world scenario. Dionysio completely plunges his teeth into crazy, dazzling movements reminiscent of the explosive (and unrepentant) comedies of Rob Schneider. Dante literally dances about whether to play a romantic leader, if only for one act. And it’s easy to see why the casting agents should make this happen, immediately, thank you. A supporting cast playing parents, wives, girlfriends, grandmothers, and bad influences make sure every comedy setup crackles. Then comes Darion to anchor the film with emotional stakes and a pounding but still beating heart.
Darion’s character starts off with a stereotypical sad sack, crashing into a friend’s room since a brutal break-up two years ago. He’s stuck, isolating himself from the outside world and channeling his pain into stares with dead eyes and EDM music that makes his family cringe. Then comes a flash – or a DM on a dating app. Teresa (a kinetic Liza Lapira) comes into her life, the sun in a tight dress. On a wonderful date, we watch the sulking brother transform. Her rigid self-awareness merges with fluid hope and natural gentleness. This vignette becomes a thoughtful showcase, not only for Darion’s acting, but also for Dante’s director reel. In one film, this actor-turned-writer / director shows that he can direct everything from bowling and stoner humor to romantic drama with a distinctive and engaging verve.
The best films with commentary of 2021