Movie review: KZ Tandingan shines in 'The Art of Ligaw'

Fred Hawson

Posted at Nov 15 2019 12:55 PM

Jake Esguerra is a hotshot fund manager who is also well-versed in the art of picking up ladies for quickie affairs. 

One day, he went to Davao to lecture salesmen on making a sale using the art of seduction. There he met their team leader Carisse, who was a conservative sort of girl, no boyfriend since birth. 

Challenged because his usual pick-up lines and moves did not work, Jake decided he will win Carisse over by courting her the old-fashioned way. 

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This little film presented its story in a first-person point of view, with Jake himself breaking the fourth wall to narrate his own story. The context of this type of narrative will be explained later on in the film. 

The problem with this style of storytelling is that technically, Jake cannot know what Carisse was doing when he was not with her -- so how can he narrate what she was doing, or what she was thinking? There could have been more imagination in how to tell Carisse's story still from Jake's point of view.

First of all, it has to be said -- Epy Quizon is the spitting image of his father Dolphy, more than ever. While Quizon was charming, he did not seem to be a Jake, a ladies' man who had no trouble sweeping women off their feet and was proud of it. His Jake and his patented pick-up style can come off as pretentious, arrogant, and even creepy. His overconfidence did not look natural enough to have girls fall so easily for him, well at least in this guy's perspective.

I was expecting Jake to display some sense of humor since it is said that girls usually fall for funny guys. Quizon is known to be funny in real life, however his Jake was so self-conscious about his style that any attempt at humor felt put-on. In fact, the way Quizon's Jake was narrating his whole story felt so serious and heavy-handed. It had none of the magnetic characteristics that Jake was supposed to have. 

KZ Tandingan is being introduced as an actress in this film and, honestly, I thought she held her own against the more experienced Quizon. She was quite good when she was in light and breezy scenes as they came off as effortless for her. She still had some tendency to deliver her more serious lines in a rather dull singsong manner, but I am sure this will improve in her future projects. 

Tandingan had some scenes in which she was supposed to be funny, where she came across like Melai Cantiveros in the delivery of her Visayan lines, something she should be more conscious to avoid in her future films. Of course, the film also highlighted her world-renowned talent in singing and she aced those scenes effortlessly. "Quicksand," a ballad Tandingan herself wrote and performed, was a perfect fit into her part of the story.

There were a lot of pressing questions in the story it was trying to tell. Why did Jake want to court Carisse in the first place? She is supposed to be the very first girl he decided to court in an old-fashioned way, but why her? Was it just because she rebuffed him right off when they first met? He practically shamed Carisse to accepting a date with him by serenading her at work in front of her officemates. Was this really the advice Sebastian was giving men who wanted to court a lady love? 

With the title, it seemed writer-director Jourdan Sebastian wanted to tell about the art of courtship when aiming for a long-term relationship. However, to be frank, I thought I saw more and remembered more about the techniques about picking up girls (hence I question the generous PG rating), than techniques of courtship he wanted to show. 

Anyhow, Sebastian was clever to point out that the Filipino term for courtship ("ligaw") is the same as the Filipino term for lost (also "ligaw").

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