Film review: The Gifted Dark comedy with a clever twist
By Mario E. Bautista
MANILA, Philippines - The Gifted shows how important it is to have a good cast. Its offbeat humor is not your usual slapstick kind of local comedy. But for this type of dark comedy to really work, it needs actors who are willing to push the boundaries and can afford to be both ludicrous and sympathetic.
In The Gifted, Anne Curtis, Cristine Reyes and Sam Milby are given the latitude to do some fun stuff with their characters while also playing to their strengths. The movie is a wickedly cold-hearted tale of jealousy and revenge, a clever dark comedy with a twist which we won’t dare discuss here so as not to spoil your viewing pleasure. Watch it, then tell us if you saw it coming. We didn’t. Not right away. But if you’d go back to the opening scene that frames the story...
Ostensibly, The Gifted is about the rivalry of two friends from grade school, the rich girl Zoe Tuason (Anne Curtis) and the working class Aica Tabayoyong (Cristine Reyes). Both highly intelligent, Zoe is grossly overweight (Anne wears a fat suit like Gwyneth Paltrow in Shallow Hal) and Aica is plain ugly so they’re both outcasts who have no choice but to gravitate toward each other. Sadly, the friendship eventually turns to hatred when Zoe becomes envious of Aica’s being always No. 1 in class. It will go to absurd proportions when Zoe manipulates a handsome classmate, Mark (Sam Milby), to distract Aica from her studies. Failing in this, she resorts to violence and even tries to kill Aica later on.
The movie is reminiscent of such dark comedies as Robert Zemeckis’ Death Becomes Her where Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn are the rivals, and George Cukor’s Rich and Famous where Jacqueline Bisset and Candice Bergen are the rivals.
The reason The Gifted works so well is that writer-director Chris Martinez succeeds in getting uniformly excellent performances from the whole cast, from the leads Anne, Cristine and Sam to the supporting cast, mainly the parents: Arlene Muhlach and Ricky Rivero as Anne’s pushy oversized parents, and Candy Pangilinan and Dominic Ochoa as Cristine’s parents from whom she gets her unruly bushy eyebrows and crooked teeth. The two girls who played Anne and Cristine as grade schoolers should also be commended.
This is Sam’s most outstanding performance in his entire career. He is not only well-photographed here and comes out every inch the perfect-looking leading man, but he also does so well delivering all his Tagalog lines with a Visayan accent.