Film review: Starting Over Again

Rating: 11/10

Let me begin by saying that my rating for this film is for Piolo Pascual alone, he who lights up my eyes, fills my world with unicorn and rainbows, and makes my life generally better. Lol.

Well, now that that is out of the way…

The plot: two exes, Ginny (Toni Gonzaga), an architecture student, and Marco (Piolo Pascual), a history professor, see each other again after close to 5 years.

The film works its way backwards, which I initially found tedious. It wasn’t until the middle of the film when the magic happened for me: I think I may have watched the smartest breakup scene in a local film. (Granted, I haven’t seen a lot.) Malalim. The storytelling, the actors, the dialogue, the non-verbal cues (I stress the last part; it seems the film works best when there is little dialogue exchanged), the reason for their breakup—all were perfect, save for one quibble that I have: of course, here’s another breakup scene in the rain. (However, with Piolo’s wet shirt clinging on each of his finely chiseled six-pack, director Olivia Lamasan, who shares the writing credit with Carmi Raymundo, is more than forgiven.)

It’s commendable how Lamasan and Raymundo unraveled both sides of the breakup story in an inspired series of flashbacks—the defense for both parties were so compelling, viewers would find it hard to pick sides.

In her interview on Gandang Gabi Vice, Toni shared that she initially questioned Lamasan about her character: no woman could be as desperate as Ginny. (“May mga babaeng naghahabol ba talaga?” asks the beautiful actress.) Toni’s excellent acting betrays her own doubts: Ginny practically spits on Toni, especially in that pivotal scene with Patty (Iza Calzado), Marco’s present girlfriend. Any another actress would have probably made Ginny look like the town whore, but Toni gives the character its decency and pride. Hence, (spoiler alert; select with mouse to view)her confrontation scene with Iza, came without warning: it was desperate, daring, and unexpected, and I loved it.

Iza’s understated acting as sweet Patty was brilliant: she forces a smile, maintains a steady voice, and yet tears roll down her cheeks. Her lines and delivery were laced with subtlety, it was hard to tell if she was still being nice or if her claws were already out. I like a script that gives viewers room for interpretation.

Piolo has already proven himself an astute actor—and here, he gives yet another solid performance. His beauty practically overshadows those he shares the screen with, and somehow Lamasan manages to draw out his vulnerability, and the actor delivers.

Also, I still maintain that his abs deserve to be minted on all Philippine coins.

Starting Over Again is far from perfect. It could have been one, but Lamasan and Raymundo overcompensate with the dialogue by explaining way too many things.

There were dialogues that ran for what felt like 5 minutes. I like a long repartee (reference: Woody Allen), but here, they were wordy and trite, and the Tagalog, formal and literal (e.g., those cooking/baking metaphors). By now, you would have memorized the line from the film’s trailer: “I need an explanation… I need an acceptable reason,” and true enough, the actors compensate for their characters by rationalizing their motives in detail*.  Again, I like a script that gives viewers room for interpretation.

Stretching two hours long, the film could have also done away with several scenes: Piolo didn’t need to be a history professor (which only raised questions on the propriety of the relationship); there needn’t be a website, which allowed users to schedule the delivery of a letter sometime in the future (just explaining how it works was tedious for the characters); and—spoiler alertthere needn’t be a scaffolding accident (poorly executed, it had us in stitches). An unforgiving and creative editor could’ve easily simplified these convoluted subplots, and made this film perfect, since it already had the perfect cast.

The film concludes with a veritable and satisfying ending, though I have my misgivings about how it pandered to the masses. Also, current events made it a little creepy for my taste.

It’s interesting that the movie makes a huge point in defending baking as a science—in which ingredients are prepared to their exact measurement—versus the sinigang, a broth created with a hodgepodge of spices and vegetables, all subject to taste. You’d think Starting Over Again would have picked up on that.

Recommendation: Go out and watch.

* * * * *  * * *

*Now, I will digress a bit here. I think this is a Pinoy thing, how we—for I am guilty of this myself—tend to explain everything in detail. (Which also probably explains why we don’t get satire.) Just consider this synopsis taken from the film’s official website: it practically gives out the entire film, save for the ending, so again I’m hiding it in white font. (Select with your mouse to view.)

Ten years ago, Ginny (Toni Gonzaga), an Architecture student, and Marco (Piolo Pascual), a History professor, began a one-of-a-kind and unpredictable love story. In the five years that they were together, they brought out the best in each other, which included Marco’s unrealized dream of becoming a chef. Together, they worked towards their dream of opening up a restaurant, but when Ginny realized her own pursuits were different from his, she rejected his wedding proposal and left the country for a Masters degree in Architecture. At present, Ginny co-owns a one-stop Architecture and Interior Design firm specializing in Restoration. She receives an email from Marco, which was written and sent after their break-up, meant to be read four years later. It makes her feel even more regretful of leaving the love of her life. When their firm receives an offer to restore an old house into a restaurant, she is ecstatic to learn that Marco will be co-owning the restaurant. She takes this as a sign that this will be their second chance they need, but finds out that Marco wants the restaurant ready for his wedding proposal to his US-based girlfriend, Patty De Guia (Iza Calzado). This doesn’t stop Ginny from accepting the project in the hopes of winning back Marco, now very different from the man he used to be. When he learns her motives, he plays along to push her regrets and show that he is much better now. But their actions take a toll on them when they talk about the past, feelings start to get involved, and Patty begins to get suspicions about the two. Can mistakes and wrong decisions be undone to give way to a second chance? Will Ginny get her happy ending with Marco, or is she four years too later?

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8 thoughts on “Film review: Starting Over Again

  1. Kim says:

    Enjoyed reading your review. Like you, I’m a massive Piolo fan and watched this film in the cinemas because of him. I must admit, I didn’t understand what went on all the time because I was seriously staring on the screen when he has a close up.

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  2. Bryan Olaguer says:

    I really liked your review. Unlike those from the real movie critics/journalists, yours is more relatable as an ordinary movie goer. I think I had the same feelings and sentiments about the movie. Not everyone is a communications major or whatever it is related to analyzing movies, thus having a review that’s thoroughly done is a bit too much. Sometimes we just wanted to appreciate a story and enjoy the ride of emotions. If a movie delivers well on this, I think some flaws can be forgiven. Anyway, I also enjoyed the movie, the casting was great. parang tailored para sa two leads ang story. I think it had the right blend of comedy and drama. Honestly, mas nakakatawa pa siya sa mga high-grossing comedy movies ng Star Cinema. Finally, they were able to created a movie like this. It’s not perfect but it’s great. The story is real kaya sabi ng marami, may hugot. sana may second film pero imposible ata.

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  3. labyrinthianocean50@gmail.com says:

    I admire the post and the criticism that you have given to this movie. I believe that I could almost say the same thing. However, seeing the movie myself, I believe that the movie is more of another Star Cinema franchise, rather than a romantic-comedy film.

    It doesn’t strike me a s a cohesive story but a mishmash of plots that is being staged by a group of talented, yet confused people.
    Lamasan’s idea ha a very refreshing take on a bolder and “in to your face concept” of up-scaling the Philippine romantic movie, braving the odds of presenting the unacknowledged face of relationships. PJ (Piolo Jose) is as always, the ruggedly handsome and hopelessly romantic lead actor that captivates its female audience with his serious and honest to goodness lines that devastates every one. And Tony Gonzaga, well the girl is a genius at comedic timing and as far as her track records show, she has always been one of the most desirable female lead actress as she can easily be paired to any leading man. This veritable talents are a force of their own, that is why the movie becomes a success, however without them and their legions of fans, the MOVIE would be a devastating flop. The fans have become the hail mary of the movie.

    There is a story, but it is a very vague one. Sure, we laugh at Ton’y’s silly antics and get all mushy once Piolo gives his heart-breaking lines,and I commend them for that, but their characters are lost. There is no give or take, and the story travels on two forked roads rather than drawing it to one consistent line, and the two artist look so awkward being paired together. Remember the love scene that John Lloyd and Tony did (My Amnesia Girl/2010), we all laugh and enjoy that scene (don’t tell me you don’t), what about Piolo and Claudine’s romantic scene in Milan (2004), we both love them (or rather their team up), because there is something in their relationship. They have worked as equals and by that they have worked in cohesion with both their acts and the persona that they portray without loosing their identity as an artiste. The team of Piolo and Tony are two opposing poles that ineffectively mesh together. Add to that is the story which is the very foundation of the movie but heck, we shouldn’t be crying at spilled milk right?

    Even the ending is bad. I get the two split scenes, since the two have decided to part ways, but it doesn’t make any sense to me why Marco (Piolo)is getting engage and Ginny (Toni) is having the time of her life meeting a group of bachelors and ending with a real life fling, it just didn’t quit add up to the equation. Perhaps this is what Tony’s trying to say in her interview, that a more polished ending should be fitted into the movie. If I where to refashion it, I would have the Marco and Patty scene, with the ancestral house renovated, as Ginny would have envision it, and that Ginny would still have those lingering thoughts of Marco in the background, but seeing it as a distant yet happy thoughts while she smilingly carries her bag back to Barcelona fulfilling her own dreams. Well that’s about it. Thanks for the post Jason and I hope I didn’t sound to vague as well as i am writing this thing in a hot, 34 degree room and my head is trying to spew out all of its thoughts.

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