The last Filipino movie I watched — indie filmmaker Lav Diaz’s Mula sa Kung Ano ang Noon (From What Was Before) was probably one of the heaviest, most thought provoking and artistic movies I’ve seen locally. It was widely acclaimed by critics, won the 2014 Locarno Film Festival, and spanned 5 hours and 38 minutes. At the end of it, I was still reeling with the depth of the movie so I decided the next Pinoy movie I will watch should counter balance all the thinking I did with Diaz’s film. Luckily, I had a copy of Diary ng Panget (Diary of an Ugly Girl) in my TBW pile. Its a light romantic comedy about a bunch of teens falling in love so what better departure from the arts could I have than this?
Eya (Nadine Lustre) is an orphan who goes to school on scholarship at Wilford Academy, a school for the rich and privileged. To say that she sticks out like a sore thumb in a school of beautiful people is an understatement because not only is she riddled with acne but she is also dirt poor. Luckily, she makes friends with Chad (Andre Paras), a popular and sensitive jock and his dream girl Lorie (Yassi Pressman), a half British half Pinoy beauty who has been in love with heartthrob Cross Sanford (James Reid) since grade school. When she is kicked out of the house by her aunt as soon as she turned 18, she finds work at the Sanford house as Cross’ personal maid and she finds out that behind his beautiful face likes a monster, who turns away anyone who attempts to get close.
Diary ng Panget is a movie adapted from wattpad, a portal for aspiring writers to have an avenue to publish their works online for free. As a matter of fact, the author Denny R. is only currently 20 years old (She was younger when publisher PSICOM picked up her novel for publishing). On the positive side, it was a great move for the studios to pick up a book written by a young author to make a film for young people. It was like getting a direct link to their target market and in this aspect, Diary ng Panget did not disappoint. The jokes were actually quite funny and the characters’ antics were really relatable to young people. For older audiences, some of the scenes may actually remind them of their exploits when they were younger so its a win-win across the board.
In terms of the casting, Viva Films took a risk in giving big breaks to a new and improved James Reid (who won in the Philippine version of Big Brother Teen Edition several years back), and newcomer Nadine Lustre and it was a gamble that paid off because these two have nice chemistry. Nadine looks like a girl next door and James is hunky so they really complemented each other. As for supporting characters Andre Paras and Yassi Pressman, who are also relatively new to the industry, their acting still needs some work but they were likeable and charming and basically, that’s all their roles ever asked of them so there’s great potential here for a new loveteam.
On the minus side, the story and the execution was riddled with plotholes and inconsistencies (which are in slumbook terms “too many to mention”). Its understandable for the source material to have this because it was written by a teenager but since the film rights were bought by professionals, scriptwriter Mel Mendoza del Rosario should have tweaked the screenplay to address these issues and not stuck to the book religiously. As a result, there were great problems with the flow of the story in terms of transitioning, impacting the effectiveness of establishing the actual love story between the lead characters. The film relied too much on the ‘kilig’ factor of the stars and forgot to infuse a certain amount of substance to make the characters memorable.
All in all, I cannot fault Diary ng Panget too much because its not the type of film that gets made for the artistry, but rather its the type of feel good rom com that pleases its audience for 110 minutes but gets forgotten after a while. I enjoyed it to a certain degree but it was frustrating because there was some potential in the movie. Working with younger people should have inspired creativity and energy to try something new. Unfortunately, filmmakers did not even make the effort of exploring the possibilities because they already trapped themselves in the mainstream formula. And its a shame.