ASIAN VALUES DVD REVIEW
to see a trend among the new Filipino filmmakers. Often as not, theyre
film-school brats raised on Tarantino and Scorsese, with cameras that
tend to run around, hand-held, to the driving beat of a rock score.
They like to show amoral punks with eccentric character traits and
filthy vocabulary, apparently on the assumption that no one watching
their film will have seen Tarantinos Reservoir Dogs, or Pulp
Fiction (And they would be right. Most of the time). Their films are
full of flash and style with incoherent plots; you watch them, you
dont understand a thing, you are intermittently entertained,
and you forget them the moment you leave the theater.
And then theres
Joyce Bernal. Like her artistic kin, Bernal is a lightweight; she
refuses, apparently, to tackle serious subjects, having made the
genre of the romantic comedy her particular domain. She is hardly
an original (her Kailangan Koy Ikaw (You are All I
Need) borrows its plot from Notting Hill (which in turn borrowed
its plot from Roman Holiday) and her Pangako... Ikaw Lang (I
Promise... Theres Only You) takes its cue from While You Were
Sleeping). Her visual style is sophisticated but hardly groundbreaking
- is, in fact, pretty much in the approved Viva Films style, glossy
this is a crucial "but..." Bernal does know how to tell a story,
having started out as an editor. She coaxes relaxed, confident performances
from her entire cast (standouts include Ruffa Mae Quinto, Amy Austria,
Marissa Delgado, Roldan Aquino, and some unknown actress playing
the most horrifyingly tactless maid Ive ever seen). And she
gives the film the light, airy feel of a real comedy, a feel not
as easily achieved in Philippine cinema as, say, heavy-duty melodrama
or your usual shoot-em-up. Bernal is unique, in that she makes movies
in whats actually one of the most difficult of genres, the
romantic comedy, and she has the box-office to prove shes
very good at it.
light comic touch is easily apparent in Pagdating ng Panahon
(When The Moment Comes), yet another confection involving Manuel
(Robin Padilla), son of a mostly male family that runs a coconut
farm, and Lynette (Sharon Cuneta), daughter of a mostly female family
that runs a coconut-pie bakeshop. Manuel and Lynette are obviously
made for each other - shes processing and distribution while
hes the supplier but there is this supposed curse involved
where at least two of Manuels family have died after marrying
a member of Lynettes family.
The story is
amusing and well-written (by Mel Mendoza-Rosario), with a few (okay,
one or two) twists and turns, but its all just an excuse for
Bernal to put together a cast of interesting actors and basically
have fun with them. Bernal has worked with other lead actors - Aga
Muhlach, for example - and while the results are fairly good Muhlach
isnt quite the same; he doesnt have Padillas intensity
or volatility. Every time Bernal works with Padilla she seems to
bring out something interesting in him - hes his usual macho
chauvinist persona, but the machismo is more entertaining than irritating,
the kind of character flaw you need to make your characters comic.
In one scene,
for example, he defends the honor of a gaggle of queens from some
drunken boors. When one boor accidentally lands a blow, he declares:
"I considered you fags, since you were beating up fags; but since
one of you hit me, youre men, and deserve to be beaten up
like men," and then proceeds to knock the stuffing out of them.
funny little scene, even if - or especially because - its
so politically incorrect, with gay men portrayed as being every
bit as irrational and foolish as, say, teenaged schoolgirls (were
seeing the world through Padillas eyes, of course, where anything
in colorful clothes and a skirt is considered feminine). The scene
also puts Padillas character in perspective: hes a simple
man possessed of a complicated code of honor; the comedy comes from
his attempts to work out his code in difficult situations, with
at times unexpected results.
Sharon Cuneta as Lynette. Ive never liked Cuneta; never liked
her looks, never liked her singing, never liked her acting, and
its a measure of Bernals achievement that in this movie
shes enchanting - more, that shes enchanting despite
being so overweight. Bernal and Mendoza-Del Rosario must have wondered
what kind of romance can be had from a woman carrying what looks
like 10 to 20 extra pounds about her waistline; their solution is
remarkably simple - make the excess baggage part of the gag. The
film pokes gentle fun at Cunetas overfull figure, and she
is a wonderfully good sport about it; the additional padding is
actually a badge of honor - it signifies her membership in the all-too-human
race, adds to her charm, makes her more deserving of our sympathy,
the fleshiness of Botticellis nudes; I actually found her
less appealing when she stepped onstage recently, exposing her latest
svelte figure. Hers is not the kind of beauty that belongs on the
covers of Vogue (a magazine I like to flip through because it creates
a pleasant, perfumed breeze). It is, however, the beauty of a woman
with both feet planted firmly on the provincial soil, only a wayward
eye cast (longingly, movingly, comically) at the distant stars.
November 30, 2001.
The article also appears in Noel Vera's Critic After Dark: A Review
Of Philippine Cinema (BigO Books).
Click here to order.