Movie review: What sets 'I Love You, Hater' apart from other rom-coms

Fred Hawson

Posted at Jul 13 2018 10:46 AM

For the second film in a row, Julia Barretto and Joshua Garcia star in a film that starts with the words "I Love You". This new one is a rom-com, too, like "To the Stars and Back", and I was curious to see if their performance as a love team here could match that of the first one. I think I had only seen Kris Aquino in her horror films (like "Feng Shui," "Sukob," and "Segunda Mano." I thought it was about time I should see her in something else.

Flamboyant celebrity YouTuber Sasha Imperial launched a big search for a new personal assistant. Big fan Zoey Rivera immediately jumped at the chance to apply for her dream job. Unlucky Joko Macaraeg incidentally got roped into contention for the post as well. Joko fell in love at first sight with the pretty Zoey, but he had to pretend to be gay in order to stay in contention for the very well-paying job which he badly needed to support his financially-strapped family. Sasha will make her final choice in three months. Who will get the job?

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The JoshLia love team does it again to successfully stoke romantic thrill and tug at heartstrings. Their chemistry together is no fluke and is a big factor why this film worked. That sentimental sequence of scenes set in Joko's family residence in Paete that featured the local folk art of making taka (paper mache figurines) were sweet proof of that chemistry, cheesy as they may be for others. 

Zoey was so unlikable at the beginning, but my opinion of her steadily changed for the better as the film progressed. This was mainly due to Julia Barretto's effective delineation of her character's arc. Joshua Garcia was convincing in pretending to be a fabulous gay guy, yet harboring a serious crush on his competitor. He can really work those puppy dog eyes of his to make you root for him, even if he was doing something wrong.

Kris Aquino plays the irrepressible Sasha with her own signature panache. It was as if Kris was just playing herself and her present career as an Internet influencer via her magazine videos. Kris was fun as Sasha, what you see is what you get, and so basically we still see Kris Aquino as we know her. However, Sasha was given a home situation which made Kris flex her skills at drama, and she proves that can still deliver well in that aspect.

From the get-go, I got the vibe of "The Devil Wears Prada" with the newly-hired assistants competing with each other, both trying to keep at pace with their temperamental and demanding boss. Also, the familiar trope of a straight guy pretending to be gay to get close to the girl has also been used in many films before. However the dramatic twists in the story about honesty, the charismatic pair of Joshua and Julia, and the magnetic larger-than life presence of Kris Aquino -- all set this particular film directed by Gisele Andres apart from other derivative rom-coms. 

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."