Movie Review: Talk Back and You’re Dead

CAST: Nadine Lustre, James Reid, Joseph Marco, Yassi Pressman, Bobby Andrews, Candy Pangilinan, Christopher Roxas, Janna Victoria

DIRECTOR: Andoy L. Ranay

WRITER: Keiko Aquino and Alesana Marie

RELEASED: 2014

Billed as a teen rom-com/action-com/drama, TALK BACK AND YOU’RE DEAD (the second screen team-up of promising stars Nadine Lustre and James Reid), is an incoherent jungle of secrets and surprises. Like a desperate magician, the movie pulls one trick after another to sustain our interest. Sinking in a pile of characters no one cares about and backstories devoid of emotional heft, it is both a confused and confusing effort. Scattered throughout are gigantic plotholes, raising legitimate issues the film fails to answer.

Perfect princess Miracle Samantha Perez (Lustre) caught the attention of gangster heartthrob Top Pendleton (Reid) after a misunderstanding in a mall. He forced her to act as his girlfriend. The masquerade ended after Top and Samantha fall for each other. But as the secrets of the past caught up with the present, their future together looks uncertain.

Like most current teen flicks, TALK BACK AND YOU’RE DEAD is a slick production based on a popular Wattpad publication. Wattpad series are dependent on the continued interest of its readers and therefore, its film adaptation s feels beholden to its fans. But a movie is different, it must make sense in a couple of hours and therefore requires cutting out chunks of information from the source material. Multiple subplots botched the film. In the middle of the Samantha-Top-Red triangle are issues of arranged marriage and amnesia. To further complicate the narrative, Samantha has unsettled issues with her former best friend and Top has an ongoing feud with a competing gang. None of these are engaging despite introducing new characters to galvanize the story. (I have strong opinion against utilizing characters as mere plot devices.)

Now, a film has a problem if it raises issues and fails to address them. I am talking about “the f*ck is this sh*t” issues. First, Top often screams at and calls Samantha “stupid”, “b*tch”, and “retard”. I understand Top is goodlooking but come the f*ck on. If someone calls me a “b*tch”, I’ll suckerpunch him so hard he’ll never be able to cuss again. Second,  Samantha is described as the top student in her class but there is nothing in the movie to back this claim. There are no class-related activities/scenes proving her diligence in school. Third, Samantha complains about her perfectionist parents and personal guards. But her parents appeared late in the movie and are more concern about her marriage. I also did not see a single guard. Fourth, the amnesia timeframe. Did she suffer amnesia as a child or as a teenager? This is important because there has to be a single childhood photo of Samantha with Top or her best friend to remind her of the past. If she suffered it as a teenager, her social media pages should do the trick. See, the major problem lies in fleshing out the characters and the terrible amnesia plot.

TALK BACK AND YOU’RE DEAD shares similar plot with another Wattpad film adaptation, SHE’S DATING THE GANGSTER. But the latter has less problems because it has a better structure. Its big dramatic moments are not distracting. (TALK BACK AND YOU’RE DEAD features strange tonal shifts: one moment it’s an action film, the next it’s a melodrama.) There is also an effort to alter the source material to make it more cinematic. Despite, a forced ending (I prefer it ended during the final meeting of the adult lead characters), SHE’S DATING THE GANGSTER is still the gold standard for these kinds of adaptations. Lustre and Reid are engaging performers; there is a bright future ahead of them. But these actors need projects deserving of their talents.

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