A magnitude 7+ earthquake ravages the city leaving serious damage to life, property, and relationships in its wake. As if the lives of the members of the Montes clan are not already screwed up enough to begin with. Leading the pack is Mariel (Maricel Soriano), the TV network executive who eats bitter gourd daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Needless to say, she is a frigid bitch. Her husband Gary (Gabby Concepcion) left her for a younger woman, way younger in the form of Charlotte (Carla Abellana), who is not at all a mistress since the marriage has been annulled for a decade already, but of course that is irrelevant if you are the ex-wife/boss from hell whom everyone would love to push off the escalator if only there were no security cameras installed in the office. Eunice (Eula Caballero) thinks her mother is too strict, and like any other teenager, rebels, albeit just a little. At least she is not emo. Jacob (Jericho Rosales) is ex-wife’s younger brother who seems equally married to his job as he is to his wife Lori (Lovi Poe), an ex-lead vocalist who left her dreams to pursue wifedom, and yes, she is having withdrawal symptoms. The family patriarch (Ronaldo Valdez) is married to a much younger Agnes (Agot Isidro) and they have Selene (Solenn Heussaff) as their daughter, who insists working for her intolerable half-sister because she wants to learn from the “best”. She thinks her boyfriend Vincent (Paulo Avelino) is too clingy, so she sets her eyes on personal trainer slash matrona magnet Derek (Dennis Trillo), totally oblivious to the fact that he is doing mommy too.
That was one lengthy synopsis. At least I did not include the house help, lest there would be no more review, just a summary that is not at all brief! It is difficult to summarize ensemble dramas with a huge cast, okay. Moving on, why should you watch this movie? One thing: it is legit. You would not be seeing Maricel Soriano get tossed in a pool after a stranglehold (HA HA HA, Kris Aquino, HA HA HA) but rather just the common drama that you witness, or even get to experience, in real life such as the usual slapping, shrieking, sobbing, and sleeping with people you should never be caught sleeping with. In short, it mimics real life, which might be its very own disadvantage when they count the box office returns.
It is a serious disadvantage to be a hard-core drama film in a sea of comedies and special effects laden productions. Sure, you are a family movie, but so are they. What leverage does a crying TV actor have in the big screen over flying dragons and antique shop dealers who get tossed in a pool after a choke hold (HA HA HA, Kris Aquino, HA HA HA – sorry I could not help it)? Well, that is your answer. Acting. Ensemble dramas tend to bring out the best an actor could offer thanks to the serious tone and many opportunities for interaction with the rest of the cast, who also happen to be people and not CGI nor choppy ghost apparitions. That way, newbie actors get the chance to hone their craft with none other than the veterans themselves.
Maricel is Maricel, and for actors of her calibre you tend to nitpick rather than catch fleeting moments of brilliance for the mere fact that she is already brilliant. That is reserved for the newbies. The character is quite similar to her turn as Vera Go in the first Mano Po movie, but this one seems to be a toned down version. There are moments when she seems to be hesitating, or wait, the right term might be “remembering”? It seems like she is trying to recall her lines, hence some awkward pauses in some dialogues, but you just brush these off thanks to her long and good reputation of playing feisty women onscreen. It might be just a character nuance for all we care. There is no doubt that Gabby is KC’s father. Aside from the striking resemblance, they both have this annoying voice modulation thingy which makes every line they drop sound like a voice over for some TV commercial. At least KC seems to be gradually unlearning the bad habit. Gabby, on the contrary, does not seem to be over this phase just yet. At least most of his scenes are with Maricel and Carla. Saved by the girls.
Most people consider Carla as a ham actress, but I am not one of them. I am a fan now. I don’t know. I am just convinced after seeing her latest movies that she can act. Maybe people just could not get over the train wreck of a remake that Rosalinda was. The Eula Caballero kid is good too, even brilliant for a beginner. I am surprised that none of these two faded in the background during their scenes with Maricel. They were able to hold their own. Clap, clap!
Solenn needs more practice. It is dictated in the industry that glamorous long legged girls who speak minimal Tagalog be cast as the “liberated” black sheep who takes care of the racy scenes. It is in the culture, depending on which side of the spectrum you are on. Either you see them as liberated, or you view them as pokpokish, which is unfair, I know. But we are a nation of hypocrites, unfortunately. Okay, let’s reserve that for another essay. Bottom line, practice your Tagalog. Get similar roles for a year or two. Do not accept any poor barrio lass or naive but hot housemaid roles just yet. It would not work for now. Patience.
Dennis has always had the acting chops but always delegated to a support role, which is not bad. Most of the best actors in this country play support. Most lead roles tend to go to the ham actors. Too bad, but that is life. The good thing for Dennis is that he has versatile looks. He could play both goody two shoes and naughty bad boy with credibility, making his character’s development here convincing. Jericho is his usual self, also a good actor who does what is expected of him here, nothing less, perhaps something more, lol. Paulo does not do anything here other than take his clothes off, whine, and make bugbog the Dennis Trillo. In short, extra. Well, there are no small roles, but his here has no character development either.
Special mention should go to Agot for making the presence of the cougar population felt. Matronas, represent! We all thought that they would soon be extinct but it seems like they are back to hunt for fresh flesh. As for Mr. Ronaldo Valdez, he is always a strong presence onscreen. So, kudos too! Oops, don’t forget Lovi! More movies for Lovi, every movie I’ve seen this year with her in it was good enough in my book. Hope Regal continues to invest on her career.
A formula like this tends to age quickly and seems to have already reached its peak with Tanging Yaman back then. It is a good thing that it does not look like a film trying hard to bring back the glory days when drama was queen at the tills. Instead, it adapts to what is modern and in return gives a vibe that is not too out of date for it to seem foreign to the present generation. But still, it seems like the attempt is unsuccessful since I was surrounded by coughing old people in the cinema. It was like a Home for the Aged excursion. The minority of young bloods across the room were either busy chatting or dozing off with their mouths wide open. But again, an A+ for the effort, Regal. A perennial token drama with a good story and a competent cast is always welcome in the MMFF. But please, no more Mano Po.