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USD $1 ₱ 58.59 0.0000 June 14, 2024
June 12, 2024
6/45 Mega
₱ 33,595,070.80
₱ 17,271.00

MOVIE REVIEW: Disguised as a rom-com, ‘Elevator’ is a lovely little love letter to the hopes and dreams of migrant workers

‘Elevator’ is actually a far more interesting movie than what it pretends to be. It hits harder as a love letter to migrant workers with hopes and dreams for making it big.

While dressed up as a romantic comedy, ‘Elevator’ is actually a far more interesting movie than what it pretends to be. It has all the conventions of the genre: it has its meet-cute, the enemies-turned-to-love interest plot line, its ridiculously good-looking cast, and so much more; but the film hits harder as a love letter to migrant workers with hopes and dreams for making it big.

Director and writer Philip King manages to situate the majority of his film into the tiny world of elevator operator Jared (played by Paulo Avelino), who breaks protocol by trying to do a literal elevator pitch to all the VIP clients of the upscale hotel casino he works in. Jared has been working different jobs in different parts of the world and he’s come up with an app that would help migrant workers connect with potential employers. He has group of friends all working in the hotel and all from different countries and they are working together to help Jared score an investor.

What’s refreshing about ‘Elevator’ is that it presents a different side of overseas foreign workers. This isn’t a story of exploitation or desperation, which are important narratives, but we already have films like ‘Hello, Love, Goodbye,’ ‘Sunday Beauty Queens,’ and ‘Imbisibol’ to tell those stories. On the flip side, there are Filipinos with skill sets and potential, and they have hopes and dreams of making it big. It’s an aspirational story that showcases the hard work and street smarts (or as we call it: diskarte) that our countrymen have to employ to achieve their dreams. These dreams are personal and singular, which is a refreshing change from the usual narratives. It continues the trend started by films like ‘Hello, Love, Goodbye’ and ‘Never Not Love You,’ which explore the idea of going abroad and making money for oneself. It’s nice to see a movie that realizes what this dream would look like.

When Jared actually makes a connection with a rich businessman, Byron (Adrian Pang), he ends up having to work closely with Byron’s executive assistant Bettina (Kylie Versoza), who is also Filipino and is not easily swayed by Jared’s charm and passion. What starts off as a prickly relationship turns into something more friendly, warmer as Jared wins Bettina over and the two start to understand each other more. But things are complicated – Bettina is not single, and Jared is still trying to get Byron and Bettina to invest in his company – and the challenge helps form the foundation of the rom-com.

What makes this movie work is that Philip King is serious about his app. The conversations about the development of the business plan sounds legit (even if I know nothing about business or apps) but it helps create a believable world for these two characters to come together and fall in love. And in the discussion of the app, we see Jared as a good person who is passionate about all this. Coupled together with Paulo Avelino’s charm and conviction, it makes sense that Kylie Versoza’s Bettina would be swayed. This is Paulo Avelino’s best work in a long time; not bogged down by his superstar persona. He conjures up an everyman quality and it softens him and makes his Jared instantly likable. I have not seen this quality in him in a long time and it’s great to see it again.

Image Source: Viva Films FB

This is my fist time to see Kylie Versoza on screen and she’s so magnetic. I like her instantly and she infuses Bettina with intelligence and maturity. I feel, though, that there are times when she comes off as too stoic or cold because her make up can be so strong and she’s dressed up too much like a girl boss that it is hard for Versoza to play for Bettina’s softer, vulnerable side. She’s so gorgeous, with such strong, hard features that, with the styling that was put upon her, it was difficult for her to show off Bettina’s soul. She’s excellent when she’s playing it tough and cool, but she is fighting against the look that her character must reveal the other facets of her. There are moments when it happens, and it’s wonderful, but it’s something that she has get through.

The rest of the cast is incredible, though. Chai Fonacier, as one of Jared’s friends at the hotel is always enjoyable to see and she gives the film and warm heart and a sense of home for the film as much as his other friends (Shrey Bhargava, Shaun Lim Shi Yang, Shahid Nasheer, Rishi Vadrevu) give that sense of camaraderie that keeps the film from getting too small. Everyone is such a natural talent that it makes the friendship feel real. Adrian Pang, as Byron, is also excellent as he creates the necessary tension for Jared and Bettina.

What’s enjoyable about this film is its representation of a different set of Filipinos and writer and director Philip King never treats his film like some travelogue for Singapore. At the beginning, most of the scenes are trapped within the confines of Jared’s elevator. As his relationship with Bettina opens up, we see them in various parts of the hotel or in the city, but it never feels like a tourist video. It treats Singapore as a matter of fact, without highlighting it or its tourist spots, it situates Jared and Bettina as people of the world. It makes them fit in. And what a wonderful sight that is to see Filipinos fitting in wherever they go. What a wonderful way to represent us – as people of the world. 

King also does some very interesting things, directorially. Like when he first introduces us to Bettina, he takes a male gaze shot of her. Versoza, dressed in a revealing outfit with a plunging neckline, is our first look at the character. Later, as one of Jared’s friends is keeping tabs of her whereabouts in the gym, he is looking at her from toe to head, emphasizing how good her body is. I thought that this sexualization of her was going to be rampant in the film. Interestingly enough, the moment Jared realizes she’s not a bad person (and thankfully, it’s early in the film) the camera stops objectifying her and puts her face as the focus rather than her body. The male gaze was only there when the characters objectified and then it stopped when they realized it was wrong.

While I’m a little bothered by the verbosity of the narration and the neat little way that the film forms its conclusion, but I was enjoying every bit of this film. It was charming and it was pleasant, and it was surprising me at every turn. I kept thinking it was going to be another predictable rom-com and instead I got a smart movie about Filipinos (and other migrant workers) working hard and trying to make it outside of their homes. Surprisingly, the love story is not the central theme to the piece but the bigger world of what the two characters learn about themselves and about their own value is what makes this movie so special. This was a very pleasant surprise for me.

My Rating:

Elevator is now showing. Check screening times and buy tickets here.

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