When it comes to the cream of the crop in Philippine cinema, one needs to look no further than ABS-CBN network’s movie-making, Star Cinema. With their roster of many of the hottest young generation of stars today as well as the most recognizable veteran actors and actresses of the film industry, the question whenever a Star Cinema movie comes out is not whether it will smash the local box office or flop, but rather how much it will earn and how long its run will be extended. This then is pretty much the story for their latest offering (which earned P33 Million on its first day and P100 Million in less than a week) titled after a song first sung by Elvis Presley himself, and is thus immortalized by near-countless cover artists as one of the greatest love songs ever: “Can’t Help Falling in Love”.
The film, helmed by Mae Czarina Cruz-Alviar, longtime Star Cinema director for top-grossing romantic comedy-drama flicks headlined by the studio’s most popular heartthrobs and cuties (since 2004!), brings another heartwarming, rib-tickling, and feels-generating story that revolves around an unexpected (and unwanted) connection that – naturally – evolves into love. We see the lives of Jose Gonzales Jr. aka. “Dos” (Daniel Padilla), a chipper go-getter YOLO sort of fellow who runs a popular travel & tour company, and Gabriella “Gab” de la Cuesta (Kathryn Bernardo), a gifted gabber working for an investment bank with nice promotional aspects. She’s also in a long-distance relationship with Jason (Matteo Guidicelli), a law student in America whom she met in college and has been steady with for six years. When Jason abruptly returns to the Philippines to propose, Gab is stunned and too used to acquiescing to his wishes and her mother’s aspirations to do anything else but go with the flow.
But what seems to be a done deal gets turned on its head when Gab, filing for a Certificate of No Marriage, receives a bombshell in the form of a marriage certificate from the year before, stating that she’s married to Dos. Here’s where the film’s sort of detached prologue comes in: last year Dos and Gab attended a wedding that led to them getting royally bombed at a nightclub after-party. After a drunken first meeting at the men’s room (not dirty, I assure you), the two were then “wed” in a legal marriage – certificate and all – at that club by Dos’ acquaintance, the (just as drunk) local mayor who was a sponsor during the wedding early that day. You have to admire how Cruz-Alviar re-spins the “drunken wedding” cliché to set up this amusing conflict.
Anyway, Gab must now get in touch with Dos to have the “marriage” annulled quietly before her wedding with Jason kicks off in the future. That would be difficult however considering the officiating mayor and all but one of the signatory witnesses died over the past year. What follows is a madcap frenzy of finding ways to get the wedding undone, all while Gab tries to “stay loyal” to her fiancé while trying to get Dos’ “Manic Pixie Guy” personality out of her mind and heart. I mean, do I really have to go on about what happens next from this point? I thought so, though a sudden development concerning the guy character’s health issues does shake the standard plot some. Philippine movies of this genre tend to follow a formula, and what draws audiences to see their sort over and over again is not the “destination”, as it were, but the “journey” of love towards the ending.
And that now brings us to the stars acting in their respective roles. Enough years have passed that both Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla can seriously stretch their acting muscles from teeny films and shows, and fully embrace their character roles of young employed adults. In this movie, perhaps now more than ever, we get to see just how much Padilla has drawn from both his father Rommel and (most definitely) his uncle Robin in terms of acting style and intensity. He flawlessly pulls off a blending of a totally responsible and work-oriented guy who still loves living life to the extreme (which figures into his character’s career choice). I’d like to think of it as a “clean-cut” version of his uncle’s “Bad Boy” acting persona. Dj has always had that magic enough to make girls and women smile even without trying.
Let’s not forget Kathryn Bernardo, who sticks to us the role of a woman who is successful in life but in reality seems to be living for the sake of other people – her family and her controlling fiance’ – while barely defining her life for herself. This vulnerability hidden under a veneer of confident competence is danged charming when interacting with Padilla on-screen. And I do love how Bernardo got her voice to sound so refreshingly grown-up in the film matching her very Asian and pretty face.
One last thing, fans of Kathniel would be very pleased to know that after many years of being paired together, the two of them finally got together for their very first on-screen intimate kiss. This is True! I was one of the many fans who screamed our hearts out during the movie, twice. You know what that means, their lips touched more than once and we all just couldn’t contain ourselves and even now sitting down and writing this, I’m still giddy! I wouldn’t mind watching it over and over again.
The supporting cast of course plays their roles to perfection, with Matteo Guidicelli as the dominating fiancée, Cherrie Pie Picache and Lito Pimentel as Gab’s estranged parents, Dennis Padilla and Lotlot de Leon as Dos’ uncle and aunt, all rounds out an eclectic ensemble of characters to drive the plot forward to the “Daw” worthy conclusion. “Can’t Help Falling in Love” is a surefire winner in theater tills, and a remarkable addition to ABS-CBN and Star Cinema’s string of blockbusters. Rating 5/5. 🙂