A review of Bakit Hindi Ka Crush ng Crush Mo? (Joyce Bernal, 2013)
In the age of progressive family movies like Brave, where the young princess, Merida, a tomboy with unruly hair, finds happiness by staying true to herself, there should be no more space for antiquated, anti-woman films in Philippine cinema, films that gladly make over women to fit men’s notions of beauty.
Sadly, Bakit Hindi Ka Crush ng Crush Mo? wants women to conform to every Pinoy man’s dream girl: the pliable, ever-forgiving, blindly obedient Barbie doll (erase all traces of quirkiness and make her look like every starlet on TV with plucked eyebrows and steam-ironed hair!) who is also tough enough to weather his manly emotional outbursts. For a film that’s made by female filmmakers (director Joyce Bernal, writer Irene Villamor, and executive producers Malou Santos and Charo Santos-Concio), it’s such a waste of opportunity to tell a more woman-liberating love story, a story that does not need to kowtow to the macho pop psychology espoused by straight men like Ramon Bautista.
Sandy (Kim Chiu) is an employee of A&I Records where Alex (Xian Lim) has been recently appointed by his family as the new chief. The company is struggling sales-wise and Sandy, the employee of the month for three straight years, is the only one that Alex can rely on in resurrecting the company. When the two meet, Sandy is still nursing a broken heart from her break-up with her cad of a boyfriend (Kean Cipriano). Alex makes her a deal that if she helps him fix the company, he will help her turn into a sexy, confident woman who will no longer cry from heartbreak (“You will learn to love like a man: Love like it’s just a game. Para in the end, hindi ikaw ang iiyak.”) Of course the first thing he does is overhaul her wardrobe (with a scene straight out of Pretty Woman), pluck her eyebrows, and straighten her bushy hair. When she falls in love with him, he proceeds to break her heart as a test of her emotional toughness. In the end, she still forgives because her boss is so irresistibly cute and knows how to play the guitar, even when there’s no promise made to change his bossy ways.
So, how do you make your crush like you? The film tells women to not be too clingy, yes, but it also tells them to not be too thick-browed, not be too curly, and not to dress too differently from what’s in fashion. And yes, that it’s okay to be the follower in the relationship because a real man is one who’s confident and knows what he’s doing, no matter if he’s too proud or too domineering. Somebody please tell Star Cinema people that the age of a fragile Cinderella who must be made over to be presentable enough for a brusque Prince Charming is over! Time for them to keep up with the times.
Still, despite the film’s patriarchy-perpetuating subtext, to not watch the movie is to miss one of the most hilarious comedic performances in recent memory. As Sandy, a poor girl hopelessly in love with her boss, Kim Chiu is clueless but stout-hearted, clumsy but endearing, baduy but charming. For someone with such a fragile frame, Chiu understands how to use her body to imbue her character with the idiosyncrasies needed to make us empathize with her. In the Sadako scene, she contorts her shoulders and elbows when she crawls. In the duet with Angeline Quinto, a simple stiffening of her arms, extension of her fingers, then squeezing of her fists to punctuate the lyrics of a cheesy song is effective to generate laughter. She also gets the speech pattern of the babaeng bakla down pat. In that scene where she and her brother think of what to text her new boyfriend, she brings the house down with the side-splitting delivery of her lines.
Chiu is the watermelon and the dangerous patriarchal subtext is the seeds. Go ahead and see the movie. But don’t forget to spit out the seeds.