Saturday, May 12, 2018

My 2 Mommies

Events coordinator Manu (Paolo Ballesteros) manages his own company and is open about his homosexual life with his sister and friends, even though he still keeps it a secret from his conservative Aunt Baby (Maricel Soriano). His live-in setup with partner Ronnie (Joem Bascon) is put to the test with the return of old flame Monique (Solenn Heussaff) after 8 years of absence. She introduces her 7-year-old son Tristan (Marcus Cabais) and tells him that he is the father. Hesitant to get to know the boy at first, he eventually warms up to him and the two begin to make up for lost time. However, it does not take long until the two mommies find themselves at loggerheads with each other, not just over child rearing techniques but regarding custody as well. Will the best mom win?

It’s good to see an actor evolve. Heussaff’s filmography is not that long and most of her roles in the past have relied primarily on face value. She is always the pretty girl, the love interest. In this movie her biggest challenge is to make us believe that she is a mother. Luckily, chemistry exists between her and Cabais. Sure, she still carries the same sexy image most people already know her for but at least the role does not require her to seduce anyone or something to that effect. She just has to be a mother who wants the best for her child, not an actress pretending to be a mother who wants the best for her child. There are projects where you get to see if an actress has potential or not. For Heussaff, this is that project. If she is really serious about this acting thing, then her trajectory is just about right. Perhaps she should try an indie flick or two next to further expand her repertoire.

Ballesteros has already proven that he can act. His award-winning turn in Die Beautiful was more than enough to drive the point home. Maybe his biggest enemy nowadays is typecasting, given how all of his follow-up projects have involved him either being loud or in drag. There's nothing wrong with that. Any box-office flick centered on a homosexual character regardless if it is helmed by him or Vice Ganda is a welcome victory for the LGBT community as far as representation is concerned, even more so in a country where the discourse on such social issues is rather vague. The thing is, Ballesteros is not Vice Ganda. While the latter seems to be churning out MMFF fodder for quick cash and as a form of fan service, the former appears to be capable of leveling up his craft with the right push, something that he couldn’t do if he allows himself to be boxed in a single stereotype. But then again, this all depends on his motivation as an artist, in which only he has a say.

Soriano has been out of the spotlight for quite some time. It’s nice to see a veteran come back in a relaxed set where the burden of the movie being a success or not is not hers to bear. Her acting style has always been intense. In this film, we can argue that it is borderline overacting. But then again, this is Regal after all. They know the kind of campy that their audience wants, but we can always let this slip by viewing the character as some sort of personification of a family’s prevalent attitude or reaction toward having a homosexual in the household. In the Philippine setting, this does not even come across as an exaggeration anyway. There will always be a homophobic aunt or a sexist uncle. At least here she is written as understanding and even supportive in the long run.

My 2 Mommies is teeming with clichés and tropes that make up a typical Filipino movie. Where it succeeds, though, is in its exploration of subplots and themes involved in such scenarios. For every tired snappy retort there is a peek of a child trying to navigate two different households, both of which he happens to be a part of. For every flat joke there is an honest take on parenthood that deals with the dynamics between a parent and a child.

Suffice it to say that the focus on such elements of the plot makes up for most of what the script fails to deliver. A more popular path to take would have been to make a caricature out of certain characters as an easy source of conflict and diversion. Instead, the third parties are painted as quite sympathetic, not without their own issues but not one-dimensional either. Whatever issues the film might have, it still is a good attempt to introduce topics like child rearing in same-sex households to the public, a taboo discourse that a lot of people still tend to shy away from, even in 2018.

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