The choice came down to a movie that starred a comedienne used to be known for doing impressions of Vilma Santos, or, after a long while... Vilma Santos.
White-hot funny-girl Eugene Domingo top-bills “Kimmy & Dora.” The comedy is enjoying very good word of mouth, in addition to Eugene’s reputation and/or penchant for lighting up any movie scene she’s in. But we opted for the Vilma vehicle “In My Life.”
For one thing, the wife was partly curious about the inevitable travelogue-ishness of the movie, “In My Life,” which was set in New York. It didn’t hurt that it had “Ate Vi,” who has been absent from the silver screen for quite some time now, and my infant daughter’s crush, ABS-CBN cash cow John Lloyd Cruz. And in a bit of pseudo stunt-casting, we also get Luis (formerly known as “Lucky”) Manzano playing Ate Vi’s son, and resident gay love interest for John Lloyd. Yep, they’re a gay couple in the movie.
"...there’s grit and nails all over the scene whenever [Vilma is] there..."
So in the movie, Vilma is “Shirley Templo” (methinks the joke in the character name will be wasted on many of the audience), a separated lady being convinced to sell an old house officially bequeathed to her by her late father-in-law. Knowing this, she buys herself a plane ticket (on a librarian’s salary) to see her gay son in New York, and forces herself upon his life. The writers do their hardest to show that Luis, who plays Vilma’s son, Mark is the busiest man on their side of the planet. But for the most part, Mark (a.k.a. “Lucky”) just succeeds in looking constipated most of the time.
Speaking of constipated, Vilma Santos seems to have over-acted in this movie... there’s grit and nails all over the scene whenever she’s there. Even if grit and nails aren’t necessary for the supposed scene. The forced comedy of some parts were obviously... forced.
John Lloyd Cruz plays Noel, Mark’s hard-working, multiple-job-holding illegal immigrant (a.k.a. TNT), gay lover. Noel holds many jobs, from limo driver, to housekeeper, to Vilma’s nanny. All of which seems to indicate that he’s everyone’s favourite sucker (no gay pun intended).
Despite being her most constant companion, Shirley somehow still finds it in herself to think ill of Noel. The character of Noel, who is portrayed with such natural earnestness by Cruz, that one can’t help but think that Shirley is a schizo-case who should be thrown back to the third-world country where she belongs. We later find out that Mark is suffering from Stage 1 colon cancer. And Noel is such a sucker (again, no pun intended) that he does not tell Shirley of her son’s illness just because selfsame son told him not to.
Many unexpected things happen (yes, honestly unexpected), and the characters are put in the typical Pinoy movie mandatory situations where every sentence has been designed to be spoken with grit and tears even if it seems absolutely unnecessary.
There are many instances in the movie that require a suspension of disbelief. And one has to keep reminding one’s self that considering the absolutely royal pedigree of the lead cast, along with the location shot, surely Star Cinema will pull out all the stops to produce a very tight story. Something worthy of Ate Vi’s long-awaited visit to movie-making.
"...why do our movies make heroes of illegal immigrants, who are technically felons...?"
But no, the plot’s integrity is spongy at best. I’m guessing they didn’t find enough brand sponsors to pay for better writers...
Such as, why would a glamorous-looking intelligent Filipina woman who owns an American passport stick to a job as a librarian in what looks like a public school? How come such a well-read woman (a librarian!) suddenly switches off her brain and behaves like an uncultured idiot upon stepping on U.S. soil? How come she can’t keep a steady job? Does the movie indicate that the quality of Filipinos in our local academe is of such poor quality that one cannot even hold a simple job as a waitress in the U.S. of A? And why does Tirso (a.k.a. “Pip”) Cruz III, who made a cameo, look like an endorser for Botox, smiling like someone who let Hannibal Lecter have his brains for dessert?
... and why do our movies make heroes of illegal immigrants, who are technically felons in the U.S.? all the while improperly illustrating the sad “convenience marriage” practices of our countrymen in foreign soil.
These are questions begging to be answered... But probably not by die-hard “Vilmanians.”
Luis has his moments, but will benefit from acting classes. Ate Vi has nothing left to prove, but seems to think that over-acting can make up for weak points in the script... John Lloyd... was honestly excellent. What’s admirable about the guy as an actor is that he understands that being emotional in a movie doesn’t always mean you have to start screaming at your co-stars and turning on the waterworks. He has a great gift for emotional nuances, a concept which seems to be alien to many “artistas.” And such elements make his acting that much more realistic and impactful.
Considering that the local cineplexes have been lacking in major label local productions lately, “In My Life” (or even “Kimmy & Dora”) deserves a look. If only to support a local movie industry that is not only on life support, but probably even a zombie struggling out of a morgue.
And while the movie did not leave a lasting impression on me (and probably the wife), at least i did not feel totally robbed when we walked out of the cinema.
‘Catch you later... (and catch a local movie today...)