Philippine cinema has been plagued by romantic comedies for more than a decade. Over the years, romantic comedy or “romcom” has become the most celebrated genre of the movie-going Filipinos and of course its producers. As we enter the second half of 2017, we have another Sarah Geronimo and John Lloyd Cruz romantic comedy entitled “Finally Found Someone”. This is the 4th pairing of the Philippines’ most sought after love team after their romcom trilogy ended in 2013.
This only proves that until today the demand for romantic comedies is still on a high. But as the saying goes, too much of anything is bad. In this case, too much of romcoms – two decade tops – is a severe case of diabetes. I mean by now we already know the formula and the genre’s staples even sometimes to a fault. We easily succumb to our familiarity of the genre. Not only in the filmmaking process, but also on how they are being sold.
That said, it is so refreshing to see this dark horse of a film called “Kita Kita” in the romantic comedy landscape of Philippine cinema. I mean, they could have just retitled the film “Two Less Lonely People in the World” and it’s gonna be fine. NO. *winks at Star Cinema* It betrays staples in most aspects of the genre. From the unconventional pair-up of Alessandra De Rossi and Empoy Marquez, the K-drama vibe, that Wong Kar Wai’s stutter-step effect and to the Japanese-inspired narrations and cinematography, the film borrows in style and it pays off.
You see, Kita Kita is far from being a perfect movie. Its most striking blunder actually comes from the tropes of Korean and Japanese cinema. Unfortunately, Kita Kita falls for this tragedy. Whether it was a deliberate move or not, given the ‘unconventional tone’, I think that one big cliché could have been reworked. I don’t think that could be avoided though as it’s too big and too crucial for the story.
Thankfully, Kita Kita works because of its charm and structure. The film plays with time and perspective to a good amount of laughs and emotions you hope for. Alessandra De Rossi displays maturity, innocence, and finesse for her role, Lea, a tourist guide in Japan placed in shambles by heartbreak and temporary blindness. Empoy Marquez is the funny but plain-looking Tonyo who has so much charisma you can see past his creepy stalker vibe. To the film’s merit, it mascots this odd behavior with self-awareness and a banana. Together, the two leads carry the movie with their respective charms making you see past the film’s missteps and flair for melodrama.
The film is actually skillfully directed. It employs simple storytelling and a list-making element that makes the film whole. In the end, I felt this poetic resonance and conflicting levels of emotions that only something so familiar could do. Before it departs as too East-Asian, I have to say Kita Kita has a Filipino heart that is too big to ignore. Kita Kita is easily a year if not a decades’ best for a romantic comedy movie.
You might want to prepare a box of Kleenex! Or a can of Sapporo.