Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Edsa Woolworth


Edsa Woolworth (Pokwang) works primarily as a masseuse and has no time for other endeavors because she is also taking care of her stepfather Frank (Steven Spohn), which is why she is torn when a potential love affair with Chad (Lee O’Brian) starts to blossom. Her gay brother Boni (Ricci Chan) just got out of a five-year relationship, and he thinks it would be a good idea to put their stepdad in a nursing home where he would be given the professional care he needs. Their adopted younger brother Paco (Prince Saruhan), on the other hand, is busy stalking his biological father. Needless to say, the old man is becoming more and more of a burden to all three as each day passes. This is where cultures begin to clash. Would it be okay for a Filipino family, regarded for its strong and intimate ties, to succumb to a common practice in the west that is considered to be the norm?

More than Edsa, this movie is really about family, and they got the tagline right. They could have changed the title to Team Woolworth or something to that effect, but the Filipino connection would not have been so obvious. It’s all about family indeed, albeit a not so typical one. The name Edsa, as well as Boni, coupled with the surname Woolworth would already suffice as the perfect symbolism for a marriage of cultures resulting in a rather interesting household. While it would sound amusing to Filipinos back home, this is more of a stark reality for immigrants in the States.

Perhaps that is how the film differs from the majority produced by TFC, the mere fact that this is NOT an OFW film. There are no misunderstood children back in Manila. There are no evil relatives cheating them of their parents’ remittances. This is just the story of a family just like any other, which is why most people would not really find anything appealing or out of the ordinary here, aside from the Filipino in America theme which many of us are already aware of.

The film revolves around the day-to-day lives of the family Post-Mama Woolworth, and the main subplots explored are those of the siblings. Edsa has to deal with a persistent suitor and his redneck dad. Boni’s main predicament is his breakup with his long-term boyfriend. Paco could not decide whether to stay with the family he has known or try to start anew with the father who gave him away. As you might have observed, two of these subplots are all about relationships, and you know how the Filipino moviegoer is used to the mushy rom-com formula with half-half actors taking the lead. This is not what happens in Edsa Woolworth.

The funny thing is that Pokwang and O’Brien actually have chemistry; perhaps, it is a different thing for Chan and his onscreen partner. Nevertheless, such onscreen relationships involving middle-aged actors are not really that appreciated by the mainstream crowd here, where love teams always have to be young and worshipped by their respective cults. This is bad news in terms of box office results, but this is also where the film draws its strength, for the mere fact that it is refreshing like that. One would even appreciate the attempt and how it seems closer to real life, because not everyone could be Kim Chiu and Xian Lim, even though dreaming is free.

As far as acting is concerned, it is Papa Woolworth who turns out to be the most endearing. Spohn does not even seem to be acting here. O’Brien could have probably done more, but his role just does not require it. Chan had been active in both theater and television, so no issues with him. Maybe Pokwang could give more, lest she be dismissed as just another Ai Ai de las Alas in the making. Saruhan has some awkward moments, but is okay most of the time.

In the end, Edsa Woolworth is like one of those Hallmark movies you happen to catch on TV one boring afternoon. It will not change your life, but it does not mean that you would not really appreciate it. With the right balance between family drama and comedy, at least you get a feel-good movie that gives you an honest look at the modern family, regardless of its race, color, or surname.

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