Just The Way You Are (2015)

Sophia Taylor (Liza Soberano) has come to the Philippines after the death of her mother, which she blames on her father. Due to her aversion to anything she deems frivolous like love, she immediately catches the eye of campus heartthrob Drake Sison (Enrique Gil) who is challenged by his friends to make Sophia fall in love with him within thirty days. Although he initially takes the bet lightly, Drake eventually falls in love with Sophia, and they learn to support each other through their respective family problems. As in all bets, however, someone always loses.

Narrative
While the individual stories of Sophia and Drake are given proper attention, the overall timeline is not straightforward enough to give the impression that the movie is driving at a certain message that it wants its viewers to understand. In the first place, the title has little to do with the themes presented in the movie. While ‘Just the Way You Are’ hints at identity-building, the recurring themes in the movie deal mainly with family and independence. One can argue that Drake falls for Sophia due to her headstrong nature, but over the course of the movie, doesn’t Sophia get the standard filmic Cinderella makeover and therefore ‘fits in’? Which aspect of that hints at one being loved for ‘Just The Way (You) Are’?

Characterization
Liza Soberano delivers a strong Sophia, and the chemistry between the two leads transcends the screen. You know there is hope for a love team when, despite the knowledge that you’re being manipulated to feel giddy and invested in a pairing, you go ahead and squeal in delight anyway. Enrique Gil is believable as both Drake the Douche and Drake the Besotted Gentleman. As my friend commented, however, perhaps they shouldn’t force him to sing in future movies. His talents are definitely more evolved in the dancing and acting departments – although maybe I only know this because I’ve seen him on television.

The supporting cast delivers strong performances as well, especially Drake and Sophia’s friends. Some characters could have been essential but were not handled properly – the character of Skye was unnecessary, and Cassidy was not given enough justice as the resident bitch owing to her actress’ limitations. Sophia and Drake’s families add dimension to their characters as well. For some viewers, it might actually be the family aspect of this movie that will pull them in, instead of them being invested in the romance.

Music
I counted and the song ‘Smile in Your Heart’ was played at least three times during the movie. It’s a great song – and effective the first time it was used – but the last time I checked we were watching a movie, not a music video extended to include the background stories of its lead characters. Nevertheless, music plays a role in this movie, albeit not a vital one. The viewer is made to understand that Sophia cares about music very much, but it doesn’t quite feel like it’s her life or it’s what she lives for. It’s just an aspect of her character that’s taken as natural.

What’s worse about the music being heavily used to establish scenes is that they pair this technique with the slow-motion / close-up cliché. You get a lot of unnecessary head-turning and deep eye contact in this film, and frankly, if you’ve seen that plenty of times before, it can get very annoying.

Overall
This movie is based on a novel entitled ‘The Bet’, which I’ve never read. The producers might have changed the title of the film adaptation because the book title lacked oomph, but at least the book title knew what it was all about. ‘Just the Way You Are’ is a bit all over the place, and although it’s never boring, during the last five minutes one starts wondering why they’re taking so much time to tie up loose ends. In sum, this is a great movie if you’re looking for happy vibes and giddy feels, but it’s not a classic. If anything, it only serves the convenient purposes of establishing Liza Soberano and Enrique Gil as capable actors and of proving that the LizQuen love team is a promising pairing to watch out for in future projects.

This blog gives ‘Just the Way You Are’ 3 out 5 stars. LizQuen proves its star power as one of the most talented and well-matched love teams in Philippine showbiz.

Title: Just The Way You Are.
Production: Star Cinema | Summit Media.
Starring: Liza Soberano | Enrique Gil.
Screenplay: Maan Dimaculangan-Fampulme | Ceres Helga Barrios.
Directed by: Theodore Boborol.

Video (c) Star Cinema @ YouTube.

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