Sunday, March 05, 2006

Mamamatay ka sa kakatawa? Hardly.

Just got back from watching local indie flick, Nasaan Si Francis in the mall. While this is the directorial debut of scriptwriter Gabby Fernandez, who I understand was one of the finalists in Cinemalaya for this story he used in the movie it's also one of the comparably better movies Filipino filmmakers have come up in recent months although there were still some huge plot holes in the story the size of F150s that could have been done away with.

In case you missed it the story starts out with two friends, Boy (Paolo Contis) and Sonny (Rico Blanco) debating on where to get some needed money. Boy needs 30k to start a new life with a good-hearted prostitute he fell in love with while Sonny needs 10k to pay his college tuition fees so he can take his final exams. Boy decides to pawn his carabao to their rich best friend, Francis (Epy Quizon) who was also their former bandmate. Francis is a poor neglected rich boy orphan whose two older siblings played by Ricky Davao and Rita Avila were too busy to look after him. Boy and Sonny has a hard time convincing their friend to shell out the needed money but Francis eventually gives in by giving them a deal: they'll get the money by pushing 50 pills of ecstasy at 1k a pop. But unfortunately Francis keels over and dies before he could hand them over.

Instead of running away from the scene or calling an ambulance they decide to first look for the pills. Francis' older siblings soon arrive and thinking he passed out from his binging they leave him to go upstairs to look for the titles they'll need to sell their ancestral land since they're also in desperate need of cash. From hereon in Boy and Sonny would alternately look for those darned pills while dragging the body to various places in the house and property while trying to evade the numerous visitors that keep arriving like Francis' long suffering girlfriend played by Angel Aquino and the drug pusher played with gusto by Christopher De Leon. Apparently those wild goose chases were intended to be funny. And probably they were if it weren't for a couple of problems:

This old plot of dragging the dead body along for the ride was already done way back in the 1989 movie Weekend At Bernie's and its sequel, Weekend At Bernie's II (1993). I can't believe nobody from the local reviewers and critics remembered this. It worked then with hilarious results but it didn't do so with this because of the second problem I have with the story. If Boy and Sonny were really that desperate for money then they should have gotten out of the house and sold the carabao for the same price. The comedy and the story should have come from someplace else but instead of doing that we were treated to one stupid idea after another. The original idea in WAB worked precisely because the two protagonists Larry Wilson (Andrew McCarthy) and Richard Parker (Jonathan Silverman) didn't have any choice in the matter. They had to keep up the charade if they were to survive that weekend. In this film the two protagonists did have a choice in the matter but they were too greedy and stupid to think of anything else. In the hands of able comic experts in slapstick comedy this would have been forgiveable. Also, the comedy in the older movie came from the shocking way Bernie's corpse was handled in trying to evade unwanted guests from finding out that the central character was dead. Hiding it from unwanted guests as the two characters in this film did, isn't. Neither did the dramatic moments and the flashbacks with Francis' loved ones work that served no purpose other than to slow things down (considering the fact that the pace of a supposedly ridiculously funny story wasn't running as fast as it should be didn't help things any). Director Fernandez should have shortened those dramatic scenes and concentrated on the comedy by pulling in the reins of the punchlines with a snap.

It wasn't all a total loss though, the saving grace brought on by the acting skills of Mr. De Leon, Mr. Davao, Ms. Rio Locsin and singer, Rico Blanco (in his acting debut) somewhat helped saved the movie in whatever scenes they were in. But even then that wasn't enough to save this one. Still I laud the efforts of the Director, the actors, and everyone behind the production unit for coming up with something watchable. Not highly recommended, I'm not obliged to give this an unabashed review just because it's an indie flick, but at least it's a start towards a new direction the local movie studios could dissect and study.

* Other movie reviews worth reading by Anna Barbara L. Lorenzo (Drugs, death get droll treatment) and Butch Francisco ('Nasaan Si Francis?': Crazy In An Entertaining Way).

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