Lately, Philippine cinema has been toying with the marketability of not tying up lose ends, of denying its aggrieved heroines of their happy endings so they can find their inner strength.
Star Cinema’s I Love You, Hater is another project following this new tradition only in a more lighthearted and comically exaggerated manner.
Zoey (Julia Barretto) is a young woman hungry for love and acceptance. First by her birth father who refuses to publicly recognize her for fear of hurting his career. And now by her idol, Sasha (Kris Aquino), a social media star with a cult following.
One day, Zoey got wind of the news that Sasha is looking for a new personal assistant! Things seem to be looking up for her when she scores an interview in Sasha World.
However, one person stands in the way of an awesome six-figure salary and a slew of funtastic perks: Joko (Joshua Garcia) a smart, cute, and determined fellow desperado who will go as far as telling everybody he is gay to get the job.
I Love You, Hater is good for two hours of silly and fun entertainment primarily because the JoshLia tandem is the loveteam to beat.
Julia is radiant and posh as expected but down-to-earth that every Pinay struggling to make a name for herself in a competitive environment can relate to her struggles.
There is that one scene between her and Josh that makes the film worthwhile despite its imperfection. In it, Julia masterfully transitioned from a bittersweet confession, shock from a cruel revelation, and rage against the unfairness of things. By bringing life to Zoey, Julia gets an opportunity to show her skills as a dramatic actress.
Joshua oozes with charm as a fake gay man harboring a secret crush on his competitor.
Kris, who is cast as the formidable digital influencer Sasha, was thrust into a no-brainer role as it is as if she is only portraying herself with her familiar extravagance and life drama.
However, she was given several emotional burdens that showed off her dramatic skills that are usually hidden when she does lady boss roles. There was a scene in which her character Sasha was completely overwhelmed with sadness and gratitude at the same time—a scene that Kris delivered with grace and restraint.
Despite its outward charms, the film is problematic from the start. Director Giselle Andres took great liberties with the use of comic devices to the point that the humor becomes farcical and the motivation for the characters unrealistic.
Even with enough willingness to suspend disbelief, it is unheard of for a social media star to give a six-figure salary and a car plan to a personal assistant.
The film also failed to take advantage of the rich material provided by the cutthroat world of bloggers in which the number of likes and impressions can mean the world and a 10-second misstep can have disastrous results.
Even Joko’s family problems seem overblown for dramatic effect so too were his other means of coping with those.
I Love You, Hater could have been stronger had it been more grounded on reality instead of being a bubble where events were perfectly orchestrated to pave the way for dramatic confrontations.
I Love You, Hater is still very much a formulaic romantic comedy anchored on the overarching theme of honesty and acceptance.
It is nonetheless a more progressive take on the open-ended nature of some relationships.
The film also gives a multi-faceted picture of larger-than-life lady bosses. All too often, they are portrayed as demanding and mercurial creatures with hidden failures. But they can also be benevolent, forgiving, and accepting.
I Love You, Hater is Graded B by the Cinema Evaluation Board (CEB) and rated PG by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB).
Ed's Note: The "PEP Review" section carries the views of individual reviewers, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the PEP editorial staff.