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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

GMA News Review on Star Cinema Adventures of Pureza: 'actually fails' & 'story suffered'

This is actually not the first time they write a negative reviews... remember on 'In the Name of Love'? LINK and Forever And a Day Article Link "My problem with Forever and a Day is the lack of originality. The plot is recycled—love at first sight between a man who is a failure in his beloved career and a young woman who is about to die because of cancer. Remember the Hollywood flick A Walk To Remember?"

I've got faith in Soxy Topacio. Always have. Especially after that wonderful comedy that was Ded Na Si Lolo (2009) that could only rock the world of anyone who follows local movies - local comedies in particular. Topacio brilliantly captured the tragicomedy that is death and the family in a lower class setting without making it seem like a judgment, or an apologia for that matter.

Ah, but maybe that was a movie that was by most counts about being an indie, those were the days when Soxy as writer-director could freely demand that his story be told without the limits of network stars and box office success. Such is the tale of his recent comedy Adventures of Pureza, Queen of the Riles (Star Cinema) where Melai Cantiveros is obviously the point, and everything else in the movie is allowed to suffer. Which is to say that the story suffered. Where it could've been a swift narration of what's expected, it became a series of events that wanted to tie together the character of Pureza. And yet there was nothing in Melai as an actress that made this wholeness relevant or crucial, nothing at all that made it seem like it was needed. In fact, given the acting she did here an audience would've been happy enough with no resolutions to her persona, and she could've moved from beginning to end playing mostly herself: loud and crazy, over-the-top silly, no stretch in characterization at all.

Given these limitations in a lead actress, the decision it seems was to work with everyone - and everything - else other than Melai. This might be why over and above veteran actress Gina Pareño whose tongue-in-cheek kontrabida character just worked as expected , there was some really good acting here, the kind that knew to be ironic, to be absurd, that was conscious of the story as comedy, that knew of the story's limitations given its genre.

From the younger adopted brother (Martin del Rosario) who's Pureza's one reason for living, the brother's best friend who's a fixture in the house (Nico Antonio), from the photographer searching for lost love (Joem Bascon) to the bestfriend who couldn't profess love (Jason Francisco). Yes, in this movie that has a female lead the first step at comedy is dependent on co-actors who do the acting better.

Case in point: del Rosario plays the role of the hot younger brother with absurdity reserved, for well, the fact that he's called Ulam, and is wearing short shorts and wifebeaters the whole time that he prays to the heavens. Antonio's portrayal of Hipon is credible and endearing, even when yes, he is kain-katawan-tapon-ulo, (ergo hipon), and is kept as a secondary character, something that is not at all about talent.

Bascon had enough chutzpah to be the photographer with everything to hide, who surprisingly but believably did an impromptu tongue-in-cheek song and dance number that was one of the movie's absolute high points. But the one person here who was equally a surprise and revelation was Francisco, who could speak with his eyes, no matter that all it needed to show was longing and jealousy. Between Cantiveros and Francisco it was clear who had more of a character to deal with and create, versus just playing a bigger version of his real self.

And this might ultimately be the problem with comedies such as Adventures of Pureza: gone are the days when all comedians needed to do in film was go over-the-top, outdo every other person in the silly department, and survive it. There was a time Ruffa Mae Quinto as the superhero Booba could get away with nary an acting bone (mostly because she was willing to be practically naked), but in the present, with the likes of AiAi de las Alas in the Tanging Ina, series, even more so of Eugene Domingo in everything from Kimmy Dora to My Valentine Girls, there is a greater expectation of our commercial comedies. Not just in terms of acting, but more importantly in terms of having stories that are equally as funny or absurd, and everything in between. Commercial comedy has survived because of quick-paced funny storytelling (think those Toni Gonzaga and Vhong Navarro movies), and its here that Adventures of Pureza, actually fails. At some points in this narrative what might have been the quicker routes at storytelling became about the roundabout story of love and romance and family; at some points it was clear that the effort was being made at pointing to Melai as the lead star, lest we forget.

Which if this review is any indication, barely mattered really. There was laughter as provided by Pareño and the rest of the cast, there were bright brilliant moments of comedy. Right there was the director's hand. I've got faith in Soxy Topacio. Always will.

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