Filipinos love a good love story. It provides an escape from the ordinary, with audiences finding a way to connect with the characters and apply the lessons from a story to their own. Filipinos also love the underdog, and in the movie Asian Persuasion, the underdog is Mickey Delos Santos a Fil-Am chef trying to make it in New York’s culinary scene.
Mickey, played by Dante Basco, recently signed the divorce papers from beautiful, sparkly fashion exec Avery Chua (KC Concepcion), and has to deal with the financial crunch that comes with it. Aside from providing child support for their precocious daughter Sam (played by an adorable Scarlett Sher), he also has to pay alimony to support Avery.
With his finances in bad shape, he and his best friend Caspian (Kevin Kreider) hatch a plan to get Avery to fall in love and remarry. The bloke who gets the job prospect of being his ex-wife’s new husband is Lee, a random guy they found on a dating site. Lee is tall, handsome, and well-off, but he lacks confidence in interacting with women. Hilarity ensues as Mickey and Caspian try to mold Lee into the perfect match.
The cast is primarily Filipino, right down to the fun cameos, portraying the story written by Pinoy scriptwriter Mike Ang, directed and produced by 3-time Tony and Grammy award-winning Broadway producer Jhett Tolentino. However, while there are definitely Pinoy elements, it is not a tongue-in-cheek pandering to Pinoy Pride.
The story can be appreciated as-is, where-is, without the overdone melodrama that accompanies most local films of late. There are no slapstick scenes, shouting matches, no hair-pulling, no walling, and no token punchline that was written in for virality’s sake. It is done Hollywood-style.
With that said, it feels like it tries to mimic foreign movies in how fast-paced the story moves along. The effect came out a little rushed. We would have loved to know what gave Lee that much anxiety, perhaps a background on why Mickey turned out to be a slacker, and how the marriage started to fall apart. There were scenes that seemed to be unnecessary, such as Avery’s rapport with her friends that added nothing to the story except for a few lighthearted moments. It was as if the director wanted to show, "Hey, she has a social life, too!"
The movie ambles merrily along New York City to share the banter between the main male characters and the awkward exchanges between the newly divorced couple. It was carried by the antics of the three men, more than navigating the couple’s post-divorce life. The triangulation was between the obvious chemistry of Basco, Montalban, and Kreider, rather than the romantic complications between Basco, Concepcion, and Montalban.
This is not to say that KC did not hold her own in her comeback project after 10 years, shedding tears as effortlessly as her Megastar mom Sharon Cuneta did in her own dramatic films. KC is in her element at Asian Persuasion, and one can really tell how comfortable she is in front of the camera. Her crying scenes, which director Jhett Tolentino praised, were effortless. In contrast, her smile is gorgeous—viewers will totally understand why her two leading men would do anything to make her smile.
The cinematography is crisp and pretty, the Instagram/postcard version of NYC and not the ones we see on gritty crime shows and documentaries. What we would have liked was to see more of the Filipino culture in the scenes. Mickey’s little café had adobo pan de sal and coffee beans sourced from the Philippines, but the gratuitous food shots were reserved for upscale sushi. One more small request from “us locals” is for Fil-Ams to use the term R.P. instead of P.I. as a shortcut for the Philippines. It really means something else—ask your titos about it.
Asian Persuasion, which won the Audience Award for Best Full-Length Film at the 2023 SOHO International Film Festival, is overall worth a watch. The premise is relatable, especially to those still pining for "the one that got away." If you are looking for a light-hearted film to help take your mind off things, this is a good movie to check out.
Asian Persuasion opens in Ayala Malls cinemas on Nov. 29. Watch the trailer below.