A romantic comedy that probably was designed to cash in on the popularity of the “KathNiel” pairing, Crazy, Beautiful You doesn’t stray much from the Poor Boy/Rich Girl love story formula. However, the leads do produce a certain amount of warmth together that may make it worthwhile for fans of the RomCom genre and not just the couple.
Yeah, I can’t believe I watched it, either. A Filipino Romantic Comedy/Drama. I don’t think I’ve watched one in over a decade. Yes, I’ve watched a few Filipino films here and there in the past ten years, but usually the gay Indie films and a few films that fall onto the art-house circuit after receiving some critical notice. I was informed going in to Crazy Beautiful You to expect that the theater would be full of young women pining to see the idol Daniel Padilla and the “Teen Queen” Kathryn Bernardo together again. Apparently they are an item on-screen and off. That knowledge didn’t help me. I had visions of some kind of fan-service film tossed out there for easily pleased fans without much thought for the rest of us. I have to admit, then, that I was pleasantly surprised that I did not actually hate watching the film, and enjoyed it a little bit. It was actually closer to the Cinderella that I hoped Disney’s live action Cinderella would be but wasn’t.
Crazy Beautiful You is a fairly standard love story about a rich girl and poor boy with enough family problems thrown in to give the stars a chance to show some melodramatic range. Both lead roles come from broken family situations which they have responded to very differently. When the story opens, Jackie (Bernardo) is a wild girl arrested after an accident during a street race in Manila. Apparently, she is self-centered, hates her family, and is looking forward to moving to New York where she plans to enroll in the School of the Visual Arts as a photographer. Upset by her disobedience, her divorced parents decide to send her on a medical mission to Tarlac in an Aeta village near Mount Pinatubo. Her mother (Lorna Tolentino) agrees to fund her trip abroad if she stays in the village one week.
In the staging area for the mission, we meet Kiko (Padilla), the son of the mayor. Well, at least everyone knows he is the son. While his father (Gabby Concepcion) doesn’t acknowledge the parentage, everyone refers to him as the mayor’s son. He is raising his younger half siblings since his mother is away most of the time gambling, on dates, and hiding from creditors. He is also close to his half siblings on his father’s side, especially his younger half-brother Marcus (Inigo Pascual). While his father is rich, Kiko gets by on odd jobs and whatever hand-me-downs his fathers family allows. Despite his poverty, Kiko is helpful to others and always cheerful, to the point where we forget he has actual problems. In many ways, as the boy who should be well-off but isn’t, who is put down by a step-mother and does the housework for his mother’s family, but maintains a cheerful demeanor and never complains, he shares a lot in common with Cinderella. We can call him a Cinderfella.
Fairly standard fare for star crossed lovers. They meet, they initially fight, she wants to leave and go home, she stays under duress, they fall in love and she patches up her relationship with her mother in a tearful scene. A little fish-out of water comedy sprinkled in as Jackie isn’t cut out to be away from WiFi and electricity, but she comes to love the Aeta children and starts caring about people other than herself, including the poor, but adorable, Kiko. Once they fell in love in the village, I thought the movie would end with a kiss. And then it didn’t. It took me awhile to figure out why.
The first half of the movie is really devoted to Jackie and her problems so much go that I had forgotten that Kiko had problems, too, that needed to be solved before the love could be consummated with that kiss. While I was ready to leave, the movie itself was just getting started on his issues, and his issues are actually difficult to solve because they involve him standing up to his mother, father, step-mother and half-brother, which for a good boy like Kiko is very difficult to do. But until those four change their behavior and feelings for him, he is going to be stuck where he is, taking care of everyone else. Unlike Cinderella, the Cinderfella actually has an issue that can’t be just solved by having a rich princess steal his heart. It’s more complicated than that.
It is Kiko’s story that is actually the interesting one, even though the poor boy-rich girl pairing is fairly common. It is actually the poor boy who may have to give up more to enter the relationship. Unfortunately, Carmi Raymundo’s screenplay divides the story into a Jackie half and a Kiko half, which seems to treat these problems equally. While I don’t mind a love story in which both parties need to change in order to make it work, what Jackie needs to do – learn to respect her mother and care about other people – is not really all that difficult, considering that her mother is nice and the Aeta people are not at all difficult to care for. As a rich girl, there isn’t really any urgency for her to solve the problems anyway. Even if she never recovers from her family’s divorce and never learns to respect and understand her mother, she is still going to be rich. Kiko on the other hand doesn’t have the choice to opt out and needs to change the behavior of other people, not just himself. Those demands had potential for a great deal of dramatic conflicts about uncomfortable subjects. Unfortunately, the structure of the story made me feel that neither the director nor the screenwriter wanted to go much beyond the surface.
Overall though, I thought Crazy Beautiful You worked out as a film much better than I expected, although I am not going to go crazy with the rating.. Padilla and Bernardo do look good on screen together. I can understand why they have their fans. Tolentino is fine as Jackie’s mother. Pascual is sort of serviceable as a love rival and brother, although not exactly the strongest performance. If you don’t like Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now by Starship, you are not going to like the soundrack. If you do, well, you’ll get a chance to hear it quite a bit, even though, for the life of me, I didn’t figure out what was stopping them.
I have decided to make Crazy Beautiful You my benchmark Filipino RomCom for awhile. If I come across one that is better, it will be rated higher. Worse, it will be rated lower. Hence in the great relative ranking scheme of things, Crazy earns a soft three until I can make a case that it should be ranked higher or lower. On the other hand, I am actually open to changing that rating. Since I know so little about the current state of Filipino Romances, I am open to suggestions. If you want to argue that it is the greatest film of all time, please do so in the comments. Likewise, if you think it should be rated lower, I’m willing to hear your suggestions for a better benchmark.