There is no doubt that Kim Molina is an exciting presence on screen. I’ve seen her command attention in several theater shows including ‘Rak of Aegis’ and ‘Paano Ako Naging Leading Lady’ and was happy to see her transition to the big screen in movies like ‘Camp Sawi.’ In ‘#Jowable,’ she is leading her own film and she is captivating to watch with her fully committed portrayal of a woman desperate to end her life of singlehood.
Unfortunately, “#Jowable” is geared towards delivering laughs more than telling a cohesive story grounded in a more solid narrative. The whole first two acts of the film, directed and written by Darryl Yap, feels more like a succession of gags. Rather than build a world for Molina’s Elsa to inhabit, they are all set ups for an extended joke that runs on throughout most of the film.
After a flashback of Elsa as a child to help set the mood, the film cuts to her as an adult, working at an events company with her friends, and making a scene at one of their gigs. It then proceeds to the group at a bar and endlessly teasing Elsa for having been single all her life. It’s an extremely long scene of merely throwing jokes at each other and stressing how much Elsa wants to be in a relationship. This goes on for what feels like eight to ten minutes and while the point has been made earlier -- Elsa is an alcoholic and desperate to find love -- it draws out until she leaves.
It is followed by a really long gag of a one-shot of Elsa walking down a street, drunk out of her mind, and finding reminders that everyone has coupled up except for her. It would have been funny -- it is definitely a testament of Kim Molina’s magnetism and capacity to bare all of vulnerabilities in a comic scene -- but this is the same punchline as the scene prior.
And this goes on and on in various situations. It is disappointing because there is an incredible cast here which includes Cai Cortez and Kakai Bautista but there is little for them to do other than help sell this joke over and over again.
There are wonderful, hilarious moments here, including a fresh and wonderfully performed scene between Molina and Candy Pangilinan, a nun whom Elsa befriends and prods into talking about a life of celibacy. It’s hilarious with both actresses playing out the textures of that scene so marvelously.
It’s the first time that the film pushes the narrative forward and gives us something new to absorb. The film completely revolves around Elsa’s desire for a boyfriend that it fails to make this world believable. Necessary information in the story only comes out when it is needed rather than it being planted earlier, like an important memory from her childhood, which comes into play in her next project with her friend’s events company that would turn the character around.
The gags take priority here rather than the narrative and it’s such a waste because at the film’s climactic scene, Elsa has a significant confrontation with her mother (Kakai Bautista) and it’s a beautiful, powerful scene but it is carried by just the performances and not by a careful laying out of their relationship prior to this moment. This is actual the heart and soul of the film -- the relationship between Elsa and her mother -- but it feels so underdeveloped. There is a whole history here that could center the movie if it was only explored more.
There are beautiful realisations that the film touches upon but it is explicitly presented rather than subtly delivered through the narrative. Oftentimes, the camera remains still, that the long stretches of dialogues or jokes lose energy because the camera doesn’t move or because of the jarring quick cuts. Also, the film is designed rather loudly, which is unusual for Wildsound. Everyone is shouting all the time. There is a disconnect with the stillness of the camera and the chaos of the sound design.
There is so much potential in this movie and, on a personal note, I would have been more invested in the emotional core of the film than the jokes. The cast is funny, the story has humor, I would have preferred that they punched the humor less and just let it play out while focusing on the story so that Kim Molina can effectively work her magic and shine.