Friday, April 23, 2010

Working Girls 2010 - A Dizzying Parade of Little Women Stories

Thirty minutes into Jose Javier Reyes' updated version of the 80's Ishmael Bernal classic, "Working Girls", you find yourself catching your breath and tuning your senses to accommodate its myriad of characters. In fact, enumerating all the characters here for its synopsis is already a daunting task in itself. So I won't even try.

For some people, "Working Girls" is an emotional nostalgia - seeing the returning original cast in various side stories: Gina Pareno, Rio Locsin, the still-hilarious Carmi Martin, but where's Hilda Koronel?

Eugene Domingo fills her character Paula with her usual comedic schtick, and for the most part, she pulls this off with wanton verve. Her manic energy tends to go overboard at times, but this is pretty forgivable as she invariably takes you on intermittent laughing spells! Ruffa Gutierrez plays her Marilou Cobarrubias with the endearing modesty of a seemingly brain-dead ex-beauty queen. Gone are her annoying kolehiyala posturings (it's about time) evident in her previous works ("My Monster Mom" and "Desperadas"). She actually reveals moments of Anna Faris-brilliance in her small scenes (one was while reading the "annual report" of the company she acquired from her dead husband).

There are stark references to pop figures: Eula Valdez's Dr. Cleo Carillo is obviously patterned after Dr. Vicky Bello; Jackie Lou Blanco's Head of News and Current Affairs is ABS-CBN's tough chick, Maria Ressa; Mylene Dizon's acid queen-cum-TV host Connie Valderama is Korina Sanchez; Rafael Rossel's Atty. Rodney Camacho is a loose characterization of cute lawyer Adel Tamano (though I'm not aware of his clandestine womanizing activities); Jennilyn Mercado's single mother-cum-call center agent is culled after, well, Jennilyn Mercado minus her loopy moments as Jennilyn Mercado. LOL

Bianca King's Berkeley-bred Dara de la Vega storyline is a tad too predictable but the pretty Miss King does her struggling journalist well! And finally, Cristine Reyes is luminous as the bed-hopping model Wendy. It's a tailor-made role that perfectly suits her. One of the high points of this dizzying array of little stories is the bittersweet chapter on Paula's (Eugene Domingo) love triangle with her lazy husband Bobby (Antonio Aquitania) and car-for-rent guy Nelson (the amiable Ricky Davao). Several cameos include: Cherie Gil, Maria Isabel Lopez (as a Liza Maza-styled activist); Katya Santos as Wendy's girl friend; Andrea del Rosario as a bitchy news producer. There's Joel Lamangan, Biboy Ramirez, and Carlo Aquino too.

Finally, there is Iza Calzado who's once again brilliant as heartbroken nurse Teresa, although her scene with a cancer-stricken patient (the wife of her former boyfriend - played by Jao Mapa; the same boyfriend who dropped her like a hot potato) is a tad too sappy and malamya for my taste! In fact, the movie sags every time their portion plays.

Director Jose Javier Reyes has been doing these omnibus projects and he almost never meanders into mediocrity - except for "My Monster Mom" which was horrible. His last 2 projects - "Status Single" and "One Night Only" - had numerous characters that focused on the plight of contemporary women. Though "Working Girls 2010" is a bit too random and unfocused (too much stories to really invest your empathy), it still manages to draw insight (though a bit superficial) and entertainment from its audience.

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