Saturday, February 06, 2010

I Hate Valentine's Day


I haven't seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding from start to end, but from what I gathered from scenes, Nia Vardalos is quite the force to be reckoned with, although it took her quite a while to come up with yet another cinematic romantic comedy, and wearing triple hats of responsibility in writing, directing and starring as the lead in I Hate Valentine's Day, a title which I thought was quite the misnomer for a film about a would be couple who has to learn that the games people play have to be thrown out of the window should they find that perfect chemistry between themselves, but felt constraint by artificial, social rules that worse of all, got made by and illogically adhered to themselves.

Vardalos stars as Genevieve, the chirpy proprietor of a flower shop, who to her friends is the go-to person for advice on their relationships, be it from the male or female perspective because she's quite proud of the fact that she's got it all figured out. Her secret to her happiness, is to suck the life out a man made 5 dates worth of happiness with any person of the opposite sex. You know, when you first get attracted to and fall for someone, everything that started off will be perfect, where bad dinners taste delicious, everything gets forgiven, and it's pure bliss any direction you turn to. It is exactly this first feeling of romance that Genevieve feeds on, and develops her rules to prevent her heart from being broken by a bad relationship, or one that stagnates, with exact mission objectives that each dating session should accomplish. Talk about being a control freak, in an extremely nice way, and twisted as it may sound, it could be quite feasible, really.

But of course this is a definite cover up of deeper emotions of emptiness that she has to open her eyes and heart to, and this comes in the form of neighbouring restaurant owner Greg (John Corbett), who is game enough to play the game on her terms, and to his surprise, actually works. Then you know the drill of the plot already since the trailer gave much away, with both wanting a lot more than 5 dates, and find that both are willing if they'd only decide to swallow pride and ego. It's like Hitch dishing out advice, only to find that eating his own cooking is something of a different story altogether.

I have to admit that both Vardalos and Corbett make quite the cute couple together sharing some excellent screen chemistry that you'll find yourself rooting for them to stay together and get to their senses to continue beyond 5 dates. And that's also because the film somehow lost its sparkle when things go awry, and the two find themselves lost at what to do next, which led to the narrative being dragged out in its final third toward an expected, inevitable finale. Some may also find it hard to accept how artificial Genevieve looks with her all-smiles all the time, though I felt that Vardalos may have made this deliberate because it's a smile that's only skin deep to hide the hurt inside that she's feeling, in being afraid to forgive her estranged father (when her mom already did), as well as the fear of commitment in case of a heartbreak.

But as the adage goes, you can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs. In the real world I'm still figuring out a number of issues which get broached in the film as well, in particular the inexplicable games we find ourselves playing without an end in sight, getting caught up in the never ending waiting game. If there's an answer here, it'll have to be to swallow that pride and to do something stupid, which looking back I had attempted before, so much so that it's almost like a tragic comedy if I were to reenact it.

There's an ensemble cast of caricatures here to fulfill their sole functions, which will be telling in the last scene. They never upstage the two main leads and remain perfectly at the background serving as dialogue partners, or to provide plenty of comic relief, with humour coming out of nowhere, sometimes hitting the mark, and others you'll scratch your head at when nobody else laughs along with you. In any case don't let the title fool you into believing that this film is anti-Valentine's, as it is as much a romantic comedy as the other jazzed up Hollywood ensemble film coming out next week to celebrate the day that is a bane to all the boyfriends out there.

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