by Jansen Musico
D: Jason Paul Laxamana
S: Alex Medina, Joey Paras, Alma Concepcion, Kiko Matos, Chanel Latorre, Nico Antonio
Bam (Kiko Matos) is a wealthy young bachelor seeking companionship on Facebook. It’s no tough feat, given his background, features, and wishy-washy sexual preference. How can you not trust a pretty face, even if he’s being sly, even if he’s demanding enough money to bankrupt you?
It’s easy to compare JP Laxamana’s Babagwa to Joost and Schulman’s Catfish. The similarity is evident: deception via Facebook. But that’s about it. Catfish deals with the deceived party, a Nev searching for his online Megan. Babagwa, on the other hand, turns its lens on a group of deceivers, who use social networking to weasel money out of the lonely and desperate. By exposing the other side of online identity fraud, Laxamana is able to create a slightly new way of seeing the typical “Facebook film.” While others seek to uncover fraud, this one builds it.
Bam is the online creation of a pair of two-bit crooks, Greg (Alex Medina) and Marney (Joey Paras). Through him, they get enough cash to make ends meet. Marney uses his share to give his folks a better life. Greg struggles to do the same. Marney is the brains of the operation. Greg is the voice, the sweet talker luring their targets into their web. Their operation is fool proof, that is until Greg falls in love with his mark, a spinster named Daisy (Alma Concepcion).
Laxamana is a witty storyteller. He chooses to give Bam a face on film when he could have easily discarded him in lieu of showing just Greg. Laxamana gave Bam a purpose. He’s part of an elaborate setup, not just for Greg and Marney’s scam, but for the film’s final twist, which isn’t all that surprising. Though the film’s big finale is predictable, Laxamana is able to pique his audience’s interest until the credits disappear. Not only is his story well-written, his cast is also impeccable.
Greg’s conflict, being the film’s pivot, would not have worked without Alex Medina. His and Joey Paras’s performances are of the same league. They snugly fit into Greg and Marney’s shoes, playing their strengths and exposing their vulnerabilities with precision. Alma Concepcion also fits her role perfectly; her voice and her heavy lidded eyes are suited for the flirtatious Ms. Daisy. Even the supporting characters embodied by Chanel Latorre and Nico Antonio are nice additions. They give tired stereotypes off-kilter revamps, making for some amusing moments on screen.
Babagwa has its faults, but they’re superseded by the amount of talent it showcases, first by its leads, and then by its creator. For his second full-length project, Laxamana impresses, leaving hanging questions about the validity of a love forged online. He could have followed through and gave us the aftermath of Greg’s ultimate decision. But why rehash something other storytellers have?