This review contains spoilers for the purposes of discussion. Yes, Girls Got Game does reviews. If y’all want our take on something, contact us!
GGG site moms Denice and Mia watched the Pinoy dorama-style rom-com Kita Kita, to different reactions. Was it as problematic as early reviews say, or was it a redeemably cute story? Take a look at the conversation they’ve had over it, and see for yourself!
Did the “dorama” of Kita Kita work?
Mia: I first didn’t want to watch Kita Kita because I was wary of what looked like a bait film for the Korenovela, Jdorama, and Meteor Garden audience. It may be because I entered with low expectations, but the gamble was worth it. Sapporo was gorgeously shot, and Empoy’s pa-cute pick-up lines earned the occasional pained chuckle from me. I even accepted the most ludicrous of premises (temporary blindness from stress — while it could happen, it really was a stretch for this story). Even though I was able to predict the major twists from afar, I was still a bawling mess by the time the credits rolled. I could almost forgive them for getting an Air Supply song stuck in my head for days afterwards.
What makes Kita Kita work, more than the script (which had huge pitfalls — I’ll get to that) were Empoy and de Rossi’s performances, even if my favorite couple here was Empoy x Sapporo Beer.
Denice: Sadly, 10 minutes into the movie and I was already hating on it. Kita Kita was beautifully shot and it is very refreshing to see a movie about Pinoys abroad without painting it as an OFW sob story. Not all OFV stories are sob stories, of course. What I mean is, the movie talks about issues that Pinoys abroad face (such as homesickness), but at the same time, Kita Kita does not make it the mere driving force of the characters. It even got brownie points from me for having an unconventionally good-looking lead and a treatment that is pretty new, at least for local cinema.
However, those points aside, the script was, to put it bluntly, incredibly cheesy. The dialogue feels like it was translated by someone who was not well-versed in conversational Filipino, so it’s a confusing mix of elitism and pandering. The plot itself was predictable, especially if viewed in the whole ‘dorama’ concept that was, granted, beautifully established. I cannot withhold the enjoyment of the movie from fans of Japanese and Korean dramas, but in terms of watching it as a Filipino movie, even without the very problematic premise, it was like having prettily plated faux cheesy tonkatsu from an obscure food park: undoubtedly Instagrammable, but did it really taste as good as it looks?
Did they go too far with the concept of a crush?
Mia: The movie toed a line here. I was uncomfortable with the latter part of the film where Tonyo finally shared his side of the story. It was only redeemed by the last several minutes of the film.
I accept that a crush, even by the most aware folks out there, can get crazy. I’ve played courier for a friend who wanted to drop an anonymous valentine to a crush that didn’t know she existed. I have also followed a previous crush to places he or she frequented and have done nothing more than sit there and try not to get caught staring (I was nearly caught, repeatedly). I also know that I’m not the only one guilty of this, girl or boy.
I’m from the school of thought that as long as the crush was not out of turn — such as publicly announcing the encounter, spinning it to be more than what it actually is, or being downright imposing or demanding on the crush — it’s fair game. But that is admittedly very shaky ground to stand on.
Denice: Toe-ing the line is an understatement. “The Crush” is undoubtedly a motivation in any Filipino lived experience. Please: we all know we’ve done things in the name of crushing on someone either unattainable or unavailable. While I’m all for being proactive about letting someone know that you like them, the problem with The Crush is that it’s inherently selfish. The Crush is about your perceived ideal — not who they actually are as people.
In Kita Kita, there are missed opportunities to make a statement on how to appreciate people – for one, it was already established that Tonyo was enamored by Lea not only because she was pretty. Her kindness and heart, which she literally wore, were some things that understandably attracted him. However, The Crush crossed to creepy territory when he was given the opportunity to make his move because of her disability. This could have been redeemable, up until it was revealed that he had been following her all this time.
The discomfort here is more about the fact that The Crush became less about appreciating Lea for her kindness and heart, and more about fulfilling Tonyo’s need to be around someone who made him feel good. Glorifying that and saying that it was cute because it was done with the best intentions is selling short the opportunity to tell Lea’s story, which was pretty much what the movie was about.
What was the problem with Tonyo?
Mia: I liked the film, but I was uneasy with Tonyo’s “stalking” of Lea. It’s not as cute when it’s screened in a country on the heels of an entitled douche making a billboard to get a date with his celebrity crush. This is where the film’s execution failed, and I’m not sure if it’s from the story itself or direction. My best guess, with some idea of what it takes to stretch an otherwise straightforward story for a full-length cinema release, is that in extending the story on Tonyo’s behalf, it unwittingly took on the lens of the stalker.
The film’s saving grace was how Lea was very firm with her limits with Tonyo from the beginning of the film and it’s a pity that those key moments were drowned out by the clumsy narrative on Tonyo’s side of the story. Lea did “put her heart in the hands of a banana”, and we see the kindness that drew Tonyo to her when she helps him out as a homeless man. That aspect of the film got lost on the road to Sapporo, and a very careful watch and more context is needed to really appreciate what the film wanted as a love story. It could actually be, as one friend with OFW parents observed, a non-love story between two people away from home. That was the Kita Kita I saw and loved, about two less lonely people in the world, and how that’s going to be fine.
Denice: I’m all for flawed characters, and it wouldn’t have been entertaining if Lea and Tonyo were perfect beings who knew how to navigate complicated human feelings, but I take issue with glorifying and rewarding flaws that are already rotting society in the first place. Tonyo was a nice guy — funny and charming and while not conventionally handsome, he had a lot going for him. He was the Manic Pixie Dream Boy in Lea’s story. What gets my goat is that he sincerely thought that invading someone’s personal space and following them and showing them the world as he sees it are romantic gestures and not selfish moves. It ruined everything he’s ever done for her.
If the movie was made with Japanese characters in mind, whose stereotype is the controlled emotiveness and limited social interaction, it would have been easier to pass off Tonyo as misguided but earnest. But in the movie, Tonyo played to the Pinoy trope that is annoyingly accepted as ‘cute’ and is supposed to be forgiven, regardless of how women felt. In this context, it’s not the thought that counts — it’s whether it respected the other party in the first place.
Note to guys: it’s not cute to think that a ‘No’ means ‘Try Harder’. Note to women: you don’t have to suffer through a guy invading your personal space. And always mean your ‘No’s.
And she says…
Mia: 3.5/5 – Recommended but needs work.
Some punchy humor and heartwarming moments, but a half-baked second half that should have been reviewed and reworked before filming. Empoy Marquez, Alessandra de Rossi, and Sapporo Beer saved this one. I want more movies like this, but done better.
Denice: 2.5/5 – Not a no, but a solid Try Harder.
The actors were amazing, but script and premise-wise, which go through more development, should have been at the very least workshopped. While it could be argued that Kita Kita is a step in the right direction, it’s a pretty low bar to set standards on for the current locally produced movies.
So, what do YOU guys, think? Comment below!