Loida Malabanan (Vilma Santos) is a single mother who has supported her daughter’s education until college by being a bit player, or in other words, a TV or movie extra. In her latest project, she tackles several roles such as that of sugar cane farmer and house maid, the salary for which she is reserving for her daughter’s tuition fee payment. Aside from being her primary means of livelihood, acting has also been one of her life’s biggest passions, the culmination of which is a talking role in the finale of a soap opera where she gets to work with a has-been actress who has been her inspiration since she was young. Ekstra is a film within a film, a playful jab on the world of bit players, but more than that it is actually an interesting take on the life of just another human being striving to make ends meet by doing what she does best, or what she thinks she does best. It is an honest look on the lives of those nameless faces that you often see onscreen.
This movie is funny enough to be appreciated by subscribers of the the mainstream, and will probably have a nationwide release given the versatility of the formula that it has chosen to adapt. The lines are hilarious; those of the film crew are brutally frank, while those of the actors themselves are the usual cheesy and contrived dialogue you often hear in telenovelas, intentionally delivered to be hilarious.
The bit players are somehow caught in between. Are they cast, crew, or both? In any case, the film tends to highlight this blur between their real functions on the set. At the end, each one of them is just earning a living, but obviously with different perks. As much as members of the industry might try to deny it, an evident hierarchy exists, and we get to see a glimpse of that which we do not have a chance to witness often because what is usually presented for public consumption are just the finished products.
In a way, you get to empathize with them and the devotion that they have for the job they have chosen for themselves. As one of them would like to say, it is better than staying at home doing nothing. The climax of the movie is something depressing because you see the heroine falter, and in the end she realizes that it is just a job after all, perhaps even a thankless one at that, where one minute you are praised to the high heavens just to be given a good dressing down the next. You would like to hate on some characters after that scene, but you get to realize that it is just a part of the job that could happen anywhere regardless of the profession in question. The job has to be done, and the dilemma will always be on whether you could do it or not. If not, someone else can and will do it for you.
Casting a veteran actress like Vilma Santos for such a role is already a funny irony in itself, but given the unquestionable acting prowess she has acquired through how many decades of being active in movies, this must have been a a walk in the park for her. This role is not that different from the previous hardworking and caring mother roles she has done. The only difference now is that she gets to play a role that has something to do with the industry in which she belongs, and the novelty is derived from that. In the end, casting someone of her caliber is just right because she is able to operate in different levels of acting required for several scenes, which could be a bit demanding because she is an actress playing the role of a supporting actress playing various roles. Her shining moments are those of her playing Loida, the silent moments where a single tear says more than the speaking lines of any of her other roles.
There are many cameo appearances: Cherie Gil, Marian Rivera, Piolo Pascual, and Pilar Pilapil, to name a few. Most of them play themselves, or at least a slightly modified version of themselves as they saw fit for this movie. Nevertheless, everyone does a great job in making everything such an enjoyable watch. This movie is too funny to be ignored, and it will probably not have a hard time finding an audience that would appreciate it. To some extent, it could be compared to Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank because of the premise of a movie about filmmaking, but this one appears to have more mainstream appeal in terms of presentation.