A big family wedding provides the framework into which fits portraits of love, brotherly and otherwise. Playing the suave brother, Dante strides into a rom-com premise of reconnecting with an old flame, falling in love during a pre-wedding business trip to the Philippines. While this “lucky” one chases a dream girl, the eldest (Derek) chases a rooster in a kooky caper with the best intentions and a hilarious final beat. The heartbroken brother (Darion) hesitantly gives romance a second chance, while the goofball of the group (Dionysio) ravenously pursues wild hook-ups. Their sister knits their hijinks together through a voiceover that celebrates even as she gently chides, priming for a climax that is suitably outrageous, chaotic, and sweet.
The framing of the wedding works well, bookending the comedy in dynamic settings that easily displays Filipino culture in tradition, language, family, and delectable spreads of food. Sweeping cinematography rushes us into the party, through the house, earnestly introducing the vibrant clan, and welcoming us in as one of their own. As a director, Dante shows skill for establishing the atmosphere of a place, whether it be a sensuous paradise, a hopping dance hall, a bustling household, or a volatile part of town. Arianna’s voiceover adds context and color commentary, while the rest of the cast comes to play in sequences silly and sincere.
Derek rolls out a low-key comedic persona, the straight man caught up in a mad world scenario. Dionysio sinks his teeth fully into bonkers, busting moves that recall the bombastic (and unrepentantly dumb) comedies of Rob Schneider. Dante literally dances at the chance to play a romantic leading man, if only for one act. And it’s easy to see why casting agents should be making this happen, immediately, thank you. A supporting cast playing parents, wives, girlfriends, grandmas, and bad influences makes sure each comedy setup crackles. Then, in comes Darion to ground the film with emotional stakes and battered but still-beating heart.
Darion’s character begins a stereotypical sad-sack, crashing in a spare room since a brutal breakup two years before. He’s stuck, isolating from the outside world and channeling his pain into dead-eyed stares and EDM music that makes his family cringe. Then comes a bolt out of the blue — or a DM on a dating app. Teresa (a kinetic Liza Lapira) walks into his life, sunshine in a snug-fitting dress. Over the course of one wondrous date, we watch the sulking brother transform. His stiff self-consciousness melts away into fluid hope and natural gentleness. This vignette becomes a thoughtful showcase, not only for Darion’s acting but also for Dante’s director’s reel. In one film, this actor turned writer/director shows he can helm everything from screwball comedy to stoner humor, to romantic drama with a distinctive and engaging verve.
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