Saturday, March 18, 2017

Review of 2 COOL 2 BE 4GOTTEN: Confessions from the Closet

March 17, 2017

"2 Cool 2 Be 4gotten" is the winner of the 2016 CinemaOne Originals film festival last November. I was not able to catch back then, but fortunately it had its commercial run this week, not too long after. The MTRCB rated it a forbidding R-18 citing it to be "psychologically disturbing" with "no redeeming social value." It was admittedly not easy to catch a screening, but it became too interesting to see why this was so.

Set in Angeles City in the 1990s, this film was about aloof and bookish teenager Felix Salazar, who was the top student of their graduating high school class. His life in his so-called "forlorn school" became more colorful when new Fil-Am transferees Magnus and Maxim Snyder began to invite him over to their house to help with their schoolwork. Their friendship would later take a very dark turn from which the three boys could not recover.

Khalil Ramos is excellent as Felix. When he reads his journal, we are entranced by his voice as he narrates his thoughts about his day in amusing rhetoric English. When he is silent and in thought, his soulful eyes simply say so much. As for the Snyder brothers, Ethan Salvador plays good boy Magnus, while Jameson Blake plays the bad boy Maxim. Of course, being the bold bad boy gets more acting points, and Blake was rewarded with the award for Best Supporting Actor during the filmfest. 

Ana Capri is comically effective as Demetria, the permissive and promiscuous mother of the Snyders. Peewee O'Hara is Ms. Salvacion, the strict English teacher who had an audible H with her vowels. Joe Saracho was the swishy Mr. Pangan, the Geometry teacher who wishes his good students could go abroad like him. Meann Espinosa was the naughty Ms. Echeverri, the Filipino teacher who makes inappropriate moves on her hunky students. 

For his debut as feature film director, Petersen Vargas showed a good eye for great camera angles when telling his story. He made good use of the natural environment -- like the sky, the sun, the lahar, the beach -- to evoke various emotional connections with the story. The Best Cinematography award won by Carlos Mauricio was well-deserved, especially for those great-looking outdoor scenes.

For at least the first two thirds of this film, the script by Jason Paul Laxamana was very eloquently written. The words he wrote were rich in emotions and meaning, but with a treatment so subtle such that the gay angle of the plot did not come across as so hard-sell nor awkward for mature mainstream viewers to appreciate. 

However, when the story turned to the dark side, the progression of the plot becomes more testy and more difficult to accept. The shift in Felix's character was just too sudden and unexpected in that tense scene with Maxim in the abandoned building, the scene for which this film is probably going to be best remembered for. There was totally no warning that it would happen. It was quite a jarring shock. 

From that scene on, the last third felt like a totally different movie. Could disgruntled teenagers really think and act in such sick, violent ways? As a parent of teenagers myself, I could see why the Gen X members of the MTRCB would be struck negatively with its provocative turn of events. It impossible for any audience not to react either way, depending on their age or inclination. Its challenge was its thorn, but perhaps that is also its merit. 6/10.

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