MISS GRANNY (Joyce Bernal, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Miss Granny:

1. As a huge fan, my Popster heart would always break a little whenever I’d get to read nasty comments about my Bebe Idol Sarah Geronimo. “Ang tanda na ayaw pa payagan magka-boyfriend!”, “Gurang na wala pa rin kissing scene sa movies!”, “Grabe naman si Mommy Divine gusto ata tumandang dalaga ang anak niya!“, “Ano yan pabebe hanggang 60?”, and these were even the relatively tamer ones.

I was really thrilled when I heard that she agreed to star in the remake of a Korean movie about a loathsome grandma who magically transformed back to her 20-year old self. (Manang pala si Sarah ha? O ayan literal na manang talaga sya.) Instead of raising a huge middle finger to all of her bashers, she agreed to poke fun at herself, chuckle along with the online trolls, and kill them with kindness (and laughter).

2. Although she would forever be associated with her iconic Laida Magtalas role, I could easily say that this was her best performance to date. She was just so charming as Odrey, an oldie trapped in a young person’s body. It was also a delight to see her doing things (“Ay puke!!”) that her prim and proper real persona would never do. (With that said, the limitations set to protect her image left the film with several missing pieces. More on that later.)

One of my favorite scenes was when she kept slapping Lorenz (Xian Lim) with fresh bangus without ever breaking out of character (as opposed to the latter who could barely contain his giggles). She even said something like “Bakit mo ako sinusundan na parang asong kakasta?” that cracked up every senior citizen in the audience. Another really good scene was the family dinner where grandson Jeboy (James Reid) joked about them getting married soon which made her spit out her sinigang soup. She then gave him a huge batok and said something like “Natatae ako!” which had everyone rolling in the aisles.

3. I was able to watch the original Korean version a few days before this and I had the same reservations in terms of storytelling, especially since the Pinoy adaptation was almost a shot-by-shot remake (save for the opening sequence where the original used ball metaphors to discuss ageism on women while this remake focused more on finding real happiness in motherhood). The transitions were completely off here though and several key scenes were left out that made the story feeling a bit incomplete.

One of the biggest changes was the removal of romantic encounters with Lorenz. In one scene, the Korean Odrey was asked by Korean Lorenz what she wanted in a man and her response was something like “as long as he’s a good person and good in bed”. Maybe Mommy Divine didn’t approve of hearing her daughter wanting a “lalaking magaling sa kama”? Another one that was removed and that had a huge impact on me while watching was the hairpin gift. Towards the end of the original version, old Korean Odrey locked eyes with Korean Lorenz while wearing that hairpin and it just made the scene more heartbreaking considering the new life/love that she gave up just to save her grandson.

4. I was really surprised with the jarring transitions given that Joyce Bernal’s strength as a filmmaker was that she started as a really good editor. When a local critic described this production as sloppy, I completely understood what he meant. Even little things like a few grainy scenes, some wonky subtitles (“braised beff”, “son of a tofu”??, “lawrenz”), the credits with the tilted names, and the reduced screen at the end even without the credits rolling just felt lazy overall.

5. I did appreciate the small touches made for the Pinoy setting (the taho vendor, the use of chico, the Lola Madonna reference, etc.) And there were some really inspired 60’s/70’s OPM song choices that had me in LSS mode for several hours now. The only one that I really knew was the classic Rain (originally by Boy Mondragon) because it was covered by THE Donna Cruz in the 90’s, but I couldn’t stop singing Efren Montes’ Kiss Me, Kiss Me as well (“Tanan tanan tanan!!”). Where do I send my petition for a Sarah G. retro album?

Side note: That blatant BDO billboard might have ruined the moment of a crying Fely (Nova Villa), but it was actually in the original movie only with a different brand of course (it served as a juxtaposition of a young and old woman). Now that scene where Lorenz ordered using his BDO debit card? Shameless promotion. (I did sing “Just debit with BDO!” during that sequence so…).

Another side note: Why did Odrey have a Cherry Mobile ringtone? Oppo would not be happy. And why was she made to eat crispy pata to prove the strength of her real teeth when she could have munched on a crispylicious, juicylicious Chickenjoy instead?

6. Wait, how was she able to buy Valium over the counter? And why did one banig only cost Php289? Seryoso? (Eksenadora si pharmacist, though. He made the most out of his limited screen time, unlike the usually excellent Angeli Bayani who gave a terrible performance in this movie. What happened?! Bakit level 10 agad ang pasok ng acting?)

7. I missed the Pretty Woman montage in the original, but I’m sure everyone would agree that Sarah looked incredibly gorgeous in that makeover payong reveal. Now I need to buy a parasol before my next trip to ATC.

8. I really liked the “Wag kang bibitaw” montage shown during the “Forbidden” production number. Nakakaiyak considering all the sacrifices she had to make as a single mother. It made the “letting go” scene with her son (Nonie Buencamino) even more meaningful (and even more nakakaiyak, naturally!). When he said something like, “Ma, pwede ka na umalis. At sa pag-alis mo wag kang magsasakripisyo para sa masamang anak na katulad ko”, the whole theater was flooded with tears.

Ang galing ni Nonie and natapatan sya ni Sarah sa iyakan. She was so good that I felt the need to renew my Popster card even if I already had a lifetime membership.

9. I was so excited to see the actor who would play the young Bert (Boboy Garovillo) in the big reveal at the end. I really thought it would be Matteo Guidicelli, but it ended up to be Sam Concepcion. Bakit??? What a downer!! 

Anywho, I wonder when the Forever Young Portrait Studio would magically appear again in Mother Ignacia Street. I need to be ready.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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ANG BABAENG HUMAYO (Lav Diaz, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Ang Babaeng Humayo:

1. Do you know those times when you would rather watch a silly Adam Sandler movie than wallow in all the glorious art of a Terrence Malick film (I still could not finish The Tree of Life without falling asleep)? I had that experience while watching this four-hour Venice Film Festival Golden Lion winner from master filmmaker Lav Diaz. Although this one was just half the length of Hele Sa Hiwagang Hapis, I still wondered if all of those scenes needed the extra two to three minutes of…something (nothing?).

2. I kept imagining the film as a glorified version of Charles Bronson’s revenge flick Death Wish and I had my own wish for a scene where Horacia (Madam Charo Santos-Concio) would throw away her cap, remove her denim jacket, raise her fists, and fight mano a mano with the person that sent her rotting in prison for thirty years. Fortunately (or unfortunately, I kept switching sides during its entirety), this was an art film so instead we were knocked on the head with various metaphors while our heroine waited (and waited and waited and waited and waited…) in the shadows.

3. Speaking of shadows, as with any Diaz film, this was meticulously shot in gorgeous black and white. Every scene was just picture perfect and ready for cinephiles to screencap for their year-end best of lists. (I would like to suggest that scene outside the church with Horacia standing next to a billboard saying “Huwag kang papatay.”)

4. It was a delight to see Madam Charo back on the big screen and she managed to give a good performance despite the long hiatus. There were still moments though when her classy, glamorous persona came out even when the role required more pathos and grit (or angas, especially when delivering lines like “Loaded ako, pare.”).

One scene required her to assault a woman twice her size and it was obvious that she pulled her punches. Another involved a lot of wailing on the stairs after learning that her husband died and it was met by laughter from the audience. At her best, she was able to effectively convey the moral journey of a scorned woman. At her worst, she reminded me of Kris Aquino playing a beggar in Pido Dida.

5. There were several instances where Horacia narrated her own horror story (one kid brilliantly butted in with “Wala bang fairy tale?”) and as soon as I heard that familiar soothing voice straight out of MMK, I immediately started guessing an episode title.

6. My favorite scene in the film involved a joyous song and dance number between Horacia and Hollanda (an epileptic transgender that she took under her wing, played with great nuance by John Lloyd Cruz, as if we expected anything less from him). It started with Sunrise, Sunset from Fiddler on the Roof, then continued with Somewhere from West Side Story, and ended with the familiar “shadam dradam” sounds of Donna Cruz’s Kapag Tumibok ang Puso. It was great to see the characters (and actors) finally lowering their guards and just simply having the time of their lives.

7. When Hollanda mentioned the funny faux story of how she got her name (her pregnant mother spun the globe and her finger landed on Holland), I was so happy that my mom never thought of doing that because Uzbekistan Javier would have been bullied to death in school.

8. Even with Lloydie playing against type (sounding like a millennial gay in the 90s) and hilariously complaining about his painful butthole, the standout performances were from the dependable Nonie Buencamino as the hunchback balut vendor (I craved for balut while watching, no kidding) and Jean Judith Javier (no relation, I swear) as Mameng, the taong grasa that kept accusing everyone of being demons (“Puro demonyo ang mga nagsisimba dito!!”) Applause!

9. In the film’s final moment, it showed Horacia walking round and round (and round and round and round and round…) on the posters of her missing son. Was it a metaphor for her futile search? Was that another social commentary on the state of the country during that time (and even today)? Nahilo ba sa eksenang yun si Madam Charo?

Rating: ★★★☆☆