Glad I was able to catch the Ayala Mall theatrical run of a Cine Filipino entry before the country transforms into its MMFF mode. And I was just going to watch it purely for entertainment’s sake but I can’t let it pass without a proper review because I think the film — and what it tried to do — has to be commended for its merit.
So this is it, pancit. Gora.
d. Randolf Longjas
s. Allan Habon
sc. Teresa Barrozo
c. Tuesday Vargas, Travis Kraft, Julia Clarete, Cai Cortez
Pitch: A Pinay with a white American boyfriend happily struggle to find the middle ground of their cultures in the hopes of improving their relationship to attain their goal of going to the U.S.
Catch: Most jokes were concentrated on the first half of the film, leaving the second half a bit wanting, but still satisfying ’til the end anyway. So kebs.
And this is why I can’t just let this film pass without saying anything about it: MAGANDA KASI SIYA. It works very well for me because this is a comedy that’s not caricature, and that’s sooooooooo effin’ rare lately in Philippine cinema. I’m talking about the likes of this film and HERE COMES THE BRIDE, for instance, where the film presents a far-out storyline yet it’s believable enough pa rin to make you sincerely laugh. And you sincerely laugh because the comedy is not just shallow or slapstick but it’s quite a mix of both, but differentiated because it tries to have depth in delivery and content. Depth, as in lalim, or at least pinag-isipan ang pagpapatawa at hindi mababaw ang punchlines. You know what I’m saying?
Hindi ito katulad lang ng mga Vice Ganda comedies na siya lang ang nagdadala dahil sa stand-up comic timing/delivery niya ng lines (although those work in certain contexts din naman, like in PETRANG KABAYO). At lalong hindi ito tulad ng mga comedy ng Star Cinema or ng mga dinidirek ni Direk Wenn na parang wishy-washy material lang na mukhang sinulat lang in three days (if may script at all, na para kasing tumakbo lang with a sequence outline lang at shoot na agad!). ‘Yung ganitong mga pelikula, nakakatawa talaga dahil maganda ang materyal, magaling ang delivery ng actors, at maganda ang pagkakahabi ng mga eksena at shot. Yes, it really worked for me.
Of course there’s nothing new in the story, you might say. What’s another film about a white man coupling with a brown girl in our islands? Oo, talamak na nga ang ganitong pairing but even so, each generation has something new to contribute to this intercultural discourse. For as long as we can’t shake off our memory of our colonial history, we will certainly continue to talk about the byproducts of such history in our present. Part and parcel of being Filipino, I think, is to have this discourse out in the open, whether people see it negatively or positively. But I hope we could talk about it in a more enlightened way.
And in a way, this film did. Of course the obvious objective was to show naysayers that the brown girl was not only after the money from the white guy. That’s really the default thinking here, and decades of cultural opinion and practice will not shake off that initial impression. Really. Even if we try really hard. But the film is charming because it succeeds in talking about that impression, and even overcoming it, presenting new ways and perspectives of looking at it.
And the first perspective is this: have the white man speak good Tagalog. That’s really cute, even way cuter than half-Filipinos/half-some-other-country people who come here and speak baluktot Tagalog like they’re the cutest thing after newborn puppies. No, chaka ‘yun dude, speak it. And then of course another cute thing here is have the brown girl learn how to speak proper English without even referring to that dreaded term “nosebleed” because in this film, she doesn’t see her baluktot English as a sign of being dumb (which is what, to me, the concept of “nosebleed” suggests/dictates). And what’s even cuter is she’s open to improving her English diction, without even feeling sorry for herself or without feeling insecure. That scene in the bathroom where they do this as they brush their teeth, plus the one where he drills her with meta cards, man that’s just hilarious! (e.g. Where was I born? / Penis…penisvanya? Pencil…Pencilvania!) And it pays off because Tuesday and Travis have great onscreen comedic chemistry. It works.
Another “new” yet tricky contribution of the film to this discourse is where they meet. The film is basically about these two people who met online, in a website obviously designed for meet-ups like theirs, as they both sign up in a dating website called “kanolovespinay.com” or something like that. Of course these kinds of websites exist in real life. And yes, there have been couples who have successfully formed relationships using such sites. But to the judgmental offline world, this kind of pairing is still suspect just because they met in “non-traditional” means. It’s the whole intercultural judgment, but transferred online.
And in this day and age of world wide web connectivity, many people seek out relations of all sorts online, and that should already be a given, a thing not to be subjected to morality judgments. Sige nga, ano ang pinagkaiba nito sa nireto mo ang friend of a friend of a friend of a friend mo sa friend mo for a blind date? In this case, may kalayaang mamili ang mga magde-date ng kanilang type. And yes, I’ve actually met some women who have met white men in such spaces, boyfriends nila currently or they even married pa nga and have a family na, ganun. Yes, take a look around, take a closer look, and you’ll see that these kinds of pairings — borne out of real love connections — do exist. And even if it’s viewed judgmentally pa rin, the film was able to laugh at the face of this kind of judgment. At first, the film was laughing along with the prejudice and the bigotry. Later, nakikitawa na tayo sa prublema nila. Later, kasama na natin silang tumatawa sa success na na-overcome nila sa kanilang struggles. And as the film wraps up, napapaisip tayo na oo nga naman, may mga ganitong totoo. At okay naman pala. And then we cheer them on in the end, because what they are are just like who we all are: humans who just want to be in a loving relationship, regardless of race, culture or language divides.
At bakit nga pala turkey-pabo ang peg? The storyline’s plot centered on the nearing of Thanksgiving Day and the Pinay’s struggles to find an elusive turkey in Manila for the celebration, to make her boyfriend happy. Tuesday Vargas is a gem here, kenkoy na kikay na may puso at nasasaktan din naman. In short, totoong tao, someone na posibleng mars mo sa opis o sa kapitbahay ganun, mga taong totoong puwedeng mag-exist in real life, nagawa nilang ipakita dito in a non-caricature/two-dimensional way. Patok pa lalo sa two best friends niyang kikay na kalog din, sina Cai Cortez at Julia Clarete, lalo na sa mga hirit nila na para lang naririnig ko sa tabi-tabi kapag nagsasama-sama kami ng friends ko o napapadaan ako at napapa-eavesdrop sa mga kenkoy na samahang barkada around town. Mga totoong tao, nakikita sa pelikula, malaki ang identification factor nito sa audience, kaya mas effective na nakakatawa sila, dahil nga hindi sila caricature. Take note of this, please, Star Cinema, Viva Films, Regal Films and other outfits that continue to dumb down Filipino audiences by showing us crass comedy year in and year out. Matalino ang audience oy, kaya taas-taasan niyo rin ang level ninyo please lang, k. K.
Having said that, we now end up giving this film our two thumbs up. I hope the filmmakers continue writing material and I hope they’re given more chances to show their craft to the audiences. The future of Philippine cinema is slowly being secured, thanks to such talents. Sana lang ‘wag lumobo ang mga ulo, hane?