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By Heinrich Domingo

Eugene Domingo, in the critically-acclaimed Babae sa Septic Tank (2011), enumerates three types of acting, ‘elevator’ – low to high range intensity of acting, ‘TV Patrol’ – over the top acting, and as is acting. There, she showed how performance varies depending on the character portrayed. Girlfriend for Hire employs TV Patrol acting and stops at that. At the center are Andre Paras and Yassi Pressman who unnecessarily gave too much in an apparent effort to win the crowd. Whispers became shouts, smirks became grins, and giggles became laughter. The message of the film (if there is any), was lost by the overzealous main characters flashed on the big screen.

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A grandson of a business tycoon (played by Andre) needs a girlfriend to escape an arranged marriage. He hires an orphan (played by Yassi) who ran away from her aunt’s house. As the story develops, the two fall in love for each other. Everything was fine until his ex-girlfriend came back to town and decides to rekindle their romance. He faces a dilemma on who to fight for, a hired girlfriend whom she learned to love or an ex-lover she already forgot.

The biggest mistake of Filipino romcoms is their overemphasis on the love team often forgetting that the storyline has equal significance. We often see plots revolving not on the conflict but on how the well-loved celebrities would have their first on-screen kiss or sex. As a result, the acting errors of the amateurish cast are magnified. In this film, Andre’s acting flop is the most noticeable. His voice is too pitchy, gestures too dynamic, and face too animated. When you think you have seen enough of him in Wang Fam (2015), this film might reach your Andre Paras-o-meter. Joining him is a neophyte Yassi who obviously needs more acting workshops. With her just right performance, the audience sees the film gradually crumbling into pieces.

The story does not help either. It works on the premise of dressing a douchebag rich boy as knight in a shining armor and making him achieve things he never worked for. Adjacent is a strong-willed woman who can do everything to survive but ends up needing saving from an impostor knight. If this is the kind of bullshit that we want to feed in the minds of teenage cinemagoers, our society might really be in peril.

One good thing though about this movie is the portraying of the male protagonist. Either deliberate or not, Andre Paras’ character seemed to signal the death of machismo concept of leading men. Beginning the trend from Alden Richards, masculinity of these lead actors is gradually redefined. Hence, Andre’s dismissal of the brusque male actor might mean a small ray of hope towards the death of machismo.

Girlfriend for Hire obviously does not work with a measly budget. Thus, I am bewildered why production houses continue to turn badly written Wattpad stories into films. This, I believe, is an insult to an endless list of talented writers in the industry.

1.5 stars