Our cinemas continue to be haunted by the legacy of the success of No Other Woman. The latest movie to try and replicate that film’s success is The Bride and the Lover, taking the same themes of adultery and wrapping it all up in campy ridiculousness. But No Other Woman wasn’t trying to be funny. To some extent, this movie is. It winks heartily at the audience during its campiest moments, taking visible pleasure from its recognition that these elements are silly. But then it zips back to trying to be dramatic, and the effect is ruined.
The movie begins with the wedding of Philip and Vivian (Paolo Avelino and Lovi Poe). Things get sticky when Vivian refuses to say "I do," revealing to the gathered that she has discovered that Philip has been cheating on her with her maid of honor and best friend Sheila (Jennylyn Mercado). Following the fallout of the social humiliation, Sheila and Philip get together and fall back in love. But Vivian reenters the picture a changed woman, hatching a plot to get her revenge. She appears to forgive the people who wronged her, while inside, she nurses a wounded and bitter heart.
The film appears to be smart enough to realize that the elements of the modern Filipino adultery movie are stupid. But it's not smart enough to actually make anything of that. It still pretends that it all matters, the story careening wildly through scenes that require the audience to care about the characters. It's a bipolar experience, the film constantly winking at the audience while still expecting them to take some of it seriously. It’s difficult to get invested in the drama of these characters when the film itself takes detours into outright goofiness.
Still, one could give the film credit for having just a hint of self-awareness. But whatever appeal the film might have is immediately offset by the terrible production values. The film looks like a local teleserye, its visuals completely flat and lifeless. It's kind of amazing just how bad this movie looks. There's just so little effort put towards staging any of its scenes artistically, the production only exerting the bare minimum effort to craft its images.
Given the bipolar nature of the film, it’s understandable that the actors aren’t able to do much with their characters. They are all faced with the daunting challenge of rapidly shifting gears, immediately going from a scene played for laughs to one meant to elicit tears. Nobody really gets it right. Lovi Poe settles for ridiculous, making her dramatic scenes awkward and unconvincing. Jennylyn Mercado swings wildly between two extremes. Paolo Avelino, being the male in this adultery formula, doesn’t really factor much in the movie.
The Bride and the Lover tries to have it both ways, and it ends up with nothing. No Other Woman was lightning in a bottle, that rare sincere film that doesn’t realize just how silly it all is, playing all of its camp with a completely straight face. It wasn’t a good movie, but one could certainly argue for its commitment. The same just can’t be said for The Bride and the Lover. It begins with tongue firmly in cheek, not believing in the worthiness of its own conceit. The lack of belief seems to have translated into a lack of effort, and the result is a seriously ugly film.