Melos (Tofee Calma) is an ISO-certified egotistical, recently out-of-work, albeit flamboyantly swishy director who alienates everyone around him. He is why “cantankerous’ and “shrew” were coined. After having lost yet another account at an advertising firm, Melos finds himself out of people to oppress and “games” to play (thus the title) so he conjures one in the confines of his household.
In the said houselhold, Melos employs Aljur (James Pinca), the driver who moonlights as his gardener and masseur; and Dingdong (Brad Laurente), the houseboy (a former welder) who steadily dismisses his employer’s sexual advances. To concoct a story out of his employees, Melos invites Aljur’s estranged wife Bea (Irish Contreras) to work for him. Aljur and Bea have been married for 4 years, but after a financial debacle with Bea’s father, Aljur storms out of his marriage, departing Isabela and finding a job in Manila. The couple hasn’t seen each other in a year. Aljur is appalled working alongside Bea, but helpless with the turn of events. He has to live and stay with his wife who still has the hots for him. To further thicken the plot, Melos locates Dingdong’s girl friend Angelica (Jenaira Chu) who just finished her contract as a sales clerk at a mall, and is thus, unemployed. Melos offers her a job as housekeeper.
Now that all the characters have been accounted for, the willful director plots a sexual rigodon that would have married Bea seduce Brad, and have Angelica beguile the married Aljur. It’s a perfect scenario worth writing about, right? But little did Melos realize, that such couplings would, errr... “bend” in the most unforeseen manner.
Sex comedy is a rarely dealt cinematic genre mostly because local humor is mostly huddled by the lack of genuine comic ideas and inspired writing. Vince Tan’s “Laro” succeeds in the most unusual manner. It is funny when it shouldn’t be, and is even more hilarious in its technical proficiency. The writer tries hard to fill his story with too much verbal clutter, you do wonder which book of quotations he’s taken them from. This is the other spectrum of a drugged out Danny Zialcita, where everyone is equipped with a badly delivered repartee.
Let’s start with the opening scene at a conference room where a storyboard meeting is taking place. When a presentation displeases Melos, he conflagrates like a daft faggot, mouthing his English lines with ridiculous struggle, I seriously felt sad for the Queen’s language. When will directors learn a simple lesson? If your actor bleeds from his simple English lines, it’s wiser to have him deliver in Tagalog. Or you run the risk of having him dig himself a hole, while uncomfortably writhing in precarious splendor. When the English language sends your actors to anaphylactic shock, throw a lifevest of Tagalog phrases!
Tofee Calma has been in the business for more than a decade (“Divino: Anak ni Totoy Mola”, “Init ng Laman”, “Bawal”, “Magagandang Hayop”, “Paligayahin Mo Ako”, “Dalagang Dagat” – and no, he didn’t play the mermaid), but watching him perform on screen felt like he hasn’t learned much from his enviable resume (where he mostly played the leading man). It was painful to watch him and even more so listening to him. If you’ve always wondered if Calma – playing a homosexual director – is indeed gay, you would have your doubts here. That’s how bad he is as an actor. He is awkward and he articulates as though there’s a gum stuck in his incisors and a furball down his larynx. He fills his persona with wasted facial contortions and lavishly unnecessary animated spiels; it was like a bad drag show in a two-bit comedy bar. When a character eventually quips, “You’re out of ritz” when it’s an easy “reach” – I had goose bumps! These are the personalities who populate the advertising world? Gosh, my yaya can enunciate better! It must have been all those years peeping through windows in my Speech and Drama classes! LOL
The film generously delivers the requisite nudities – both male and female; lots of them in fact! James Pinca, who registers strongly, enjoys half a dozen shower scenes. What would the Pink Film industry be like if shower scenes were discarded and banned altogether, can you imagine? It would be catastrophic! Each pink film would lose more than 50% of their running time. Shiver! Now back to Pinca; yes, he has several full monties, some in split-second flashes; others in more gratuitous displays. Unfortunately, Pinca’s promise in Vince Tan’s “Private Nights” dwindles into inevitable squander. He throws his lines like a 6 year old and his verbal cadence is almost always a uniform discourse. Pinca’s delivery feels like a dimension of emotionality starkly present in the most sublime experiences – like when buying pork chop! It is sad!
But – if Pinca is misguided by his non-directing director, Brad Laurente does even worse. In fact, Pinca becomes a luminous thespian beside Laurente whose declarative sentences are similar to his interrogative and exclamatory! His character – houseboy Dingdong (carelessly written “Dindong” at the credits) is constantly seduced by his employer Melos. Aljur keeps suggesting that he should take advantage of Melos’ indecent proposal. When it was Bea’s turn to seduce him, he gladly acquiesces with her warning: “Sige tanggihan mo ako, sisigaw ako!” When his girl friend joins him there, this displeased him. Why? The motivation of this character is so sketchy, I might as well benefit from counting the nails on my ceiling than trying to make sense from the narrative at hand!
Irish Contreras, looking heavier than when she was a Viva Hot Babe (see photo somewhere in this post for comparison), fills her character with a lot of – ugh – noise! She’s the scorned wife who’s eventually found her husband – miraculously! She appears in some full frontal scenes – including one where she shares the shower with Pinca. Jenaira Chu offers a mammarian peekaboo while she tries to seduce Pinca.
The lines spouted by the characters are a mere smokescreen of their emptiness. Try this one: “Katulong ka lang dito,” declares Angelica, then further says,”Ako, housekeeper!” I am glad she sees a thin line dividing the two terms. I don’t! In another scene, Melos accuses Dingdong: “Nakatikim ka lang ng bagong putahe, nagbago ka na!” But Dingdong hasn’t really changed. He still rebuffs his employer’s advances. Whatever change Melos is referring to must have been edited out? Or are the director and scriptwriter merely perplexed? There are ominous and repeated references to plants and animals: “Ang pusa kapag nakalingat, maghahanap ng iba!” Then there are allusions on “hilaw na langka”, “hilaw na papaya” and their “dagta”! Aren’t we getting too zoological and botanical? Fun!
There’s more: “Matuto kayong kumilatis ng ginto para ‘di kayo matanso!” Melos advises Bea and Angelica. But he himself was a victim of the boys’ deception, wasn’t he? Bea even describes her genitals as “nasusungkit sa putik” while Angelica’s was straight out of the “burak”. Ano daw? Doesn’t sungkit involve an elevated place? As far as I’m concerned, you wade in the mire; you don’t pick mud. Jos ko! The whole film is filled with such utter nonsense, scrounging the savoir vivre of “No Other Woman” this side of Pink Cinema. Some lines come too soon, like coitus interruptus: when Bea catches Angelica fiddling Aljur’s joystick, she retorts: “Ang galling n’yong mag patay malisya!” – even before they’re able to do just that! How can they feign innocence when they haven’t even seen her yet?
Jenaira Chu masters the "smoldering look". She has exactly similar poses in "Anton Tubero" and "Kubli".
Director Vince Tan has rechristened himself (a symbolic "rebirth" maybe?) , doing away with his old moniker – Neal “Buboy” Tan – the purveyor of dozens of B-exploitation flicks in the 90’s: “Kakaibang Karisma”, “Siya’y Nagdadalaga”, “Pilya”, “Campus Scandal”, “Shirley”, “Maldita”, “Kalabit”, “Puri”, “Check-Inn”, etc. Check those films shown in rundown cinemas in Quiapo, Baclaran, and elsewhere; they’re probably Neal Tan’s masterpieces! As Vince Tan, he has unfortunately fielded 3 flicks this year: “Anton Tubero”, “Private Nights” and “Laro”. Now tell me: how can someone with Tan’s “facility” keep churning out cinematic dregs while brilliant directors like Chris Martinez can only manage one and one-third (“Temptation Island”, “Gunaw” segment of “My Valentine Girls”)?
It is an unjust world.
Irish Contreras masters the art of devouring