Psychology Today defines voyeuristic disorder as "a paraphilic disorder (referring) to sexual interests, preferences, fantasies, urges, and behaviors outside the norm. It is considered a disorder when it can potentially cause distress or harm to one's self or others (especially to its non-consensual subjects)." Voyeurism is thus what opens the story of this new iWant film's central characters. It's not exactly new a theme acting as the springboard of the main roles. In fact, Sunday Night Fever reminds me of a few other materials done before. First, Silver, a 1993 American erotic thriller film based on the Ira Levin novel of the same name with William Baldwin (as video game designer Zeke Hawkins); and You, the past years' hit psycho romance thriller with Penn Badgley (as bookstore manager Joe Goldberg). How else is Sunday Night Fever different from these, though? Let's break it down!
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Former matinee idol Diether Ocampo, wine made finer at 45, is back acting on screen after a brief break from the entertainment scene. He appeared in a drama fantasy series (Bagani) in 2018 for his last project. He then joined the Philippine Coast Guard Auxiliary as a lieutenant commander last year. Diet coming into the role of Mikey fits his manly bearing, a successful chef whom most ladies desire. He still oozes with charisma—Mikey being the innocent yet irresistible one who's keeping a dark secret. +3
The male audience, however, finds a hot property in the equally daring and sensual Kim (Nathalie Hart). Kim pairing with Mikey makes a sizzling pair, enough to entice the audience’s sexual fantasies. +3
The plot is a tried and tested formula. In Richard Reynante and Lemuel Lorca's story, Rudy as the filthy rich lover-benefactor is obviously way older than Kim. Played by Ricky Davao, he comes off as a controlling, "D.O.M." in the relationship—with a temper to boot. He is most likely to lose Kim to Mikey because apart from the age difference, he's not able to satisfy Kim’s sexual needs as much as the other boy from the block can. Despite Rudy's caricatural characterization, Davao is still able to shine through in his scenes. His confrontations with Kim and Mikey intensify with different levels of control. +4
On the other hand, Mikey deliberately turns out to be Kim's long-wanted knight in shining armor. While Mikey's incomparable youth and irresistibility is apparent, for someone with baggage, his story is not developed further. -2
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Courtesy of director of photography Albert Banzon, the images of Mauban, Quezon's lush greenery at daytime and its cityscapes at night clue in on two contrasting scenarios of the kind of life the two lead characters aspire for for their future—the Shangri-La-like lushness of a bucolic setting versus the dreamy, dynamic urban jungle, respectively . +3
Kim and Mikey's love scenes are all tastefully done in a glossy manner, but one can take the hint that it's from a masculine point-of-view. Ocampo complements well with Hart in their steamy scenes with just the right amount of skin to tease its online viewers. Director Lemuel Lorca distinctively showcases lovemaking between two straight individuals sans the awkwardness. +2
How the film settles the issue of Mikey's character becomes my biggest concern toward the conclusion. While his disorder is made apparent (he gets sexual arousal just spying on the 'unsuspecting' Kim far across his condo unit on the opposite building), Mikey's character sadly falls short in providing a better backstory. His dream of being accepted into the family where he felt like a dog just waiting for scraps—for attention and love—is kept hanging. It resorts to an easy way of closing the male lead characters as opposed to Kim's. -2 Kim finally choosing whom she wants to go with already completes her journey—as a woman, sister, and daughter altogether. +2
At 13 points, Sunday Night Fever came out apt for its intended male, mature audience considering CineBro Originals' (one of ABS-CBN’s four film brands) main market. Its success there, however, could have further detoured to something more informative and inspirational—tackling voyeurism. Say, it could have further dug into the main character's Peeping Tom-like behavior that might have caused him severe distress or dysfunction in social, professional, and another significant areas of his day-to-day. However, the film substituted this comparatively more compelling story to the usual sort of love-seeking and obsession. Sunday Night Fever could have likely been a bolder film—the formula of good triumphs over evil was an easy way to conclude a potentially complex story.
—With Jeffrey Hidalgo
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Photos courtesy of iWant