Monday, August 6, 2018

Kuya Wes


Kuya Wes (Ogie Alcasid), as he is known to many, processes wire transfers at Western Remittance. Ever optimistic and always ready to serve with a smile, he dedicates his daily existence to make sure that everyone around him gets what they need, whether it be the timely release of his customers’ money sent from abroad or his share of bills in his brother’s household. A bit naïve and scatterbrained, he is often taken advantage of by the people he deals with. It’s a good thing that his colleague (Moi Bien) serves as a big sister figure for him, even encouraging him to go after Erika (Ina Raymundo), their monthly client whom he ends up fancying. His growing friendship with her causes a rift between him and his brother (Alex Medina) as far as finances are concerned. In the end, he has to make a stand and fight for what he wants, but will someone fight for him?

It is always a bit annoying to witness a character being taken advantage of. That also happens in Kuya Wes, but perhaps it is the very nature of the protagonist that lessens the hate and amps up the sympathy. After all, our hero seems rather slow. Perhaps we can even argue that it is pity that the audience actually feels? Whatever it is, Filipinos are suckers for underdog stories. This narrative works because we just want Kuya Wes to be happy, but we get hooked because we are not sure if that will even be the case.

On one hand, such storylines remind us that there are people in the world who need some looking after. On the other hand, when you have a titular character that is this innocent yet flawed, it just highlights the contrasting qualities found in people around him even more. As such, watching this movie will cause some sort of inner struggle. Should we just be happy and root for our protagonist by celebrating his untainted view of the world, or should we rather spend our time hating on the opportunists living in his universe, waiting to pounce?

Perhaps the film also succeeds the way it does because we can all relate to the predicament the protagonist finds himself in? Let he or she who has not obsessed over someone or committed to stupid martyrdom for the sake of holding on to a one-way crush cast the first stone. The weird thing is the fact that Kuya Wes already seems to be in his 40’s, although his naivety is already implied early on. You have to appreciate the ending, though, the manner by which he declares that he is not Kuya Wes but rather Daniel. It’s a mild twist yet also a good metaphor on how superficial our knowledge of those around us can be, on how we wear many masks on a daily basis to conceal our personal truths.

In any case, this is still one of the crowd-pleasers of the festival. Laughter abounds from the audience in intervals of five minutes or so. People have been used to Alcasid’s Bubble Gang brand of comedy, a bit slapstick and highly dependent on gimmicks such as playing a character in drag. In Kuya Wes, he digs deep into his comedic repertoire to employ a more deadpan approach that he has already done before but not necessarily famous for. The result is a breath of fresh air for fans and non-fans alike, an honest attack on innocence, a realization that the comedian has what it takes to be a legit actor after all.

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