Kailangan Ko'y Ikaw (You Are What I Need)
- A surprisingly good love story
Kailangan Ko'y Ikaw
By Noel Vera
Viva Film's �Kailangan Ko'y Ikaw� (You are what I need) is a romantic
comedy starring Robin Padilla and Regine Velasquez and -- surprise,
surprise -- it's actually very good.
It's nothing really new -- actually, it's the nth variation of �Roman
Holiday,� where Audrey Hepburn plays a lonely princess longing to escape
her duties and go on a holiday and Gregory Peck plays the journalist who
accompanies her on her holiday and ultimately falls in love with her. Here
Velasquez is a pop-music princess with a full schedule; one of the quickie
activities she happens to be involved in is a "Your Dream Date" contest
which Padilla happens to win, hence their first meeting.
Or rather, not quite -- Velasquez does show up, but she's in such a hurry
to get to her other engagements that Padilla is left forgotten and
bewildered and not a little disappointed. So he stalks her, kidnaps her,
then continues the date from where they left off.
And they fall in love. And they have the usual lovers' quarrels (here
involving her being a rich and famous singer and him being some poor
nobody). And, despite everything, it all ends happily. That's not the
point; the point is Joyce Bernal (who directs) and Mel Mendoza (who wrote
the screenplay) have taken a tired genre (the romantic comedy) and a tired
plot (poor boy meets rich girl), and spun off fresh (okay, fairly fresh)
and funny moments from the less-than-promising material. And that (as
anyone familiar with recent romantic comedies can tell you) is a minor
Part of it is the way the film plays against the two stars' public persona
which has been done before, but rarely with such intelligence and wit (I
can barely remember the last Filipino or even Hollywood romance that had
wit, much less intelligence). It's established early on, for example, that
Padilla is popular in his impoverished little barangay -- one of the
film's conceits is that he's so popular everyone in the community
submitted his name to the "Dream Date" contest in the hopes of seeing him
with their favorite singing star (Velasquez), which explains why he won
(cute; a stretch credibility-wise, but cute). He enjoys a standing among
his people, and Velasquez's unintended snub was more than his honor can
bear -- hence his improvised kidnapping.
Which is pretty much a recap, in romantic-comedy form, of Padilla's public
life to date. We know he has the ability to command the loyalty and
affection of ordinary folk; we know he's popular with girls and gays
(though with gays it's strictly "look, no touch"); we know he's given to
impulsive acts of questionable legality (for which he's already spent time
in prison); we know he's a die-hard romantic of a lover, who falls for all
his leading ladies. We know all this and still we forgive his flaws, still
we cheer him on -- because he's not just the movie's leading man, he's our
leading man; he has that indefinably quality that kept stars like Fernando
Poe Jr., Joseph Estrada, James Stewart and John Wayne popular through the
It helps, I think, that Bernal is directing; an accomplished editor, she
knows how to pace the film, to keep it moving along. She seems to have a
light touch with comedy�an almost unheard-of trait in a Filipino filmmaker�
and a gift for comic timing. More, having an intelligent woman filmmaker
take the famous Padilla machismo and -- well, not exactly deconstruct it,
but contribute her take on it -- gives the movie an interesting tension.
Bernal doesn't do much to soften his character -- we still see his temper
flareups, his tendency to talk with his fists rather than his brain -- but
she does see him as a kind of anachronism, one to be put up with and
understood rather than put down and censured.
Which, incidentally, is where I think recent James Bond movies fail --
instead of seeing Bond as the dinosaur that he is and honoring him for
what he once represented (male European sexism), they updated him, made
him politically correct -- in short, emasculated him. Bond, and to a
lesser extent Padilla, belong to an earlier age, when men were men; that's
the basis of their appeal. Defanging them doesn't make them more
interesting as characters, or help us understand them.
It also helps that in Velasquez, Bernal has a champion willing to fight
for her sex, on both the ideological and comical front. She concedes
little to Padilla's pride and reverse snobbishness (in this the film is
spot-on accurate -- the rich are proud, the poor, prouder); she even
engineers the film's fairly ingenious conclusion bringing the whole story
to a full circle. Better, she brings her own public persona and charisma
and sense of humor to the role -- at one point she's game enough to even
make fun of her surgically improved nose (very distracting to look at).
And she has a strong singing voice (the film manages to work in a few song
numbers -- some of them, surprisingly, the picture's comic high points.
Unsurprisingly, Viva Recording is promoting Velasquez's album based on the
Kailangan Ko'y Ikaw is a hit -- the theater I saw it in had people sitting
in the aisles. It's heartening to think that at a time when the local film
industry seems to be in a depression, people still love to go see a movie;
it's even more heartening to think this particular movie is not unworthy
of their love -- that it earns that love through heart and skill and
carefully crafted humor. The film isn't the best local film I've seen this
year �- it�s safe-as-houses entertainment, and it lacks the harrowing
realism of Tikoy Aguiluz's Biyaheng Langit (Trip to Heaven), or the poetic
ferocity of Mario O'Hara's Pangarap ng Puso (Hope of the Heart) -- but it
pretty much stands head and shoulders above everything else. Now if local
audiences can be persuaded to watch more eclectic fare...
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the metropolis' film scene, French films are being
shown on projected video, all for free, all at 8 p.m., at the Antonio
Molina Hall, Equitable PCI Bank Tower 2, Makati Ave. corner H. De la Costa
St., Makati (southern Metro Manila).
On Oct. 16, it's The Wild Reeds (1993) by Andre Techine with Elodie
Bouchez (she shared the best actor award at Cannes for Dreamlife of
Angels). It's about four young people exploring their sexuality in a
On Oct. 17, it's Pauline at the Beach (1983) by Eric Rohmer, the third in
Rohmer's series of "Comedies and Proverbs." Rohmer won Best Director at
the Berlin International Film Festival for this.
On Oct. 18, it's Hate (1995), a very controversial, very intense film, by
Mathiew Kassovitz, about 24 hours in the life of three friends with one
Baretta 9 mm. It won Best Director at the 1995 Cannes, and Best Picture at
the 1996 Cesars.
On Oct. 19, it's The Little Thieves (1989) by Claude Miller, from a
screenplay by Francois Truffaut, about a 16-year-old girl trying to make
sense of her life (it's a common problem among characters in French
cinema) in a small town in post-World War II France.
And finally, on Oct. 20, there is La Dentelliere (1977), by Claude
Goretta, a sad twist on the Cinderella story. It was nominated for a
Golden Palm at the 1977 Cannes.
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