Monday, December 26, 2011

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow – Painfully Bad, Excruciatingly Schmaltzy

Mariel (Maricel Soriano) rules the family-owned television network with steel fist and feral stance. It’s an aspect of her life she has absolute control of. Otherwise, her private life is in shambles. Her only daughter Eunice (Eula Caballero) favors her stepmother Charlotte (Carla Abellana) over her. Her former husband Garry (Gabby Concepcion) lives in marital bliss with new wife Charlotte. Meanwhile, her brother Jacob (Jericho Rosales) helps out in the network, but seems preoccupied with his domestic affairs: his wife Lorie (Lovi Poe) despises spending most of her time with their baby boy, and occasionally steals moments to sing for her band. The family patriarch (Ronaldo Valdez) – a paraplegic - oversees his business empire with his intermittent presence, while his second wife Agnes (Agot Isidro) has an extra marital affair with her personal trainer Derek (Dennis Trillo). Celine (Solenn Heusaff), Mariel’s half sister is patiently “training” under the wings of her acid-tongued half sister. She is dismissive of her boyfriend Vince’s (Paulo Avelino) constant presence, and harbors an attraction with Derek.

One day, a powerful earthquake bears sweeping repercussion to the tedium of their lives.


With unbelievable schmaltz and a persistently high-strung turn of events that play out like livid strokes of slap-happy melodrama, Jun Lana’sYesterday Today Tomorrow” once again displays Lana’s fixation to the 80’s flavored drama. In fact, I didn’t realize this was Lana’s work until I curiously found some blatant semblance to the recently shown “My Neighbor’s Wife”. It may in fact be a narrative extension of the latter. Even the actors in “My Neighbor’s Wife” – Dennis Trillo, Lovi Poe and Carla Abellana – play similar character arc and motivations.


What’s worse: Lana has managed to singularly destroy Maricel Soriano’s spotless reputation as an insightful, albeit superior caliber actress. What happened to Maricel Soriano? There never was a time that La Soriano was ever mediocre in any of her previous film projects: drama, comedy, action, even dance/musical. She could run thespic rings around her former rival Sharon Cuneta who, in her earlier years, coasted solely on charm and media hype. But for the first time, I was surprised to find Ms. Soriano heavy handed and misdirected. This was a Soriano that’s graceless, shrill and mediocre. Her one-note performance is baffling. What has time done to one of the most versatile actresses this business has ever produced?


Lovi Poe and Carla Abellana aren’t bad, but what do you say about a performance that mimics their own portrayal in a different film (“My Neighbor’s Wife”)? You don't get a pat on the back for repeating yourself! I’d have to say that in confrontation scenes involving Maricel Soriano and Carla Abellana, the latter gracefully stood her ground against the formidable Soriano. In fact, it actually emphasized Abellana’s inherent gift because she made Soriano look cacophonous and roughly discordant in temperament. That isn’t saying Abellana is worthy of an award. In this flick, the only commendable performers are Dennis Trillo, Jericho Rosales, and surprisingly Solenn Heusaff!

Trillo depicts his kept-boy character with empathy. He is onerous to decipher. In fact, he delves into Derek in multiple levels of execution; he paints Derek’s intentions as a gray area. That’s no mean feat, considering how Lana wrote his characters. Rosales has always been a sensitive performer. His sincere depiction keeps his and Lovi’s story viable. I only visualize a problem whenever he starts enunciating in English (like when he delivered his child’s eulogy). Solenn Heusaff is an amazing find. She is very comfortable in her role. You feel when she winces after getting dressed down by her half sister in front of others, or when she’s turning his boyfriend away, or when she flirts with her mother’s personal trainer. Heusaff is an honest performer, and she delves into her scenes with no emotive excesses. Her debacle? She speaks rather briskly. On stage, as in cinema, emphasis of text takes priority. Your words should resonate, regardless of how brief or simple they are.


Jun Lana is a notable playwright. He is the youngest member of the Palanca Hall of Fame in 2006, winning 11 of them previously. But his film work as a director is too far removed from his excellent writing. In fact, he lingers from too much caterwauling and peppers his narrative with implausible coincidences. Furthermore, the most preposterous “deus ex machina” is intermittently laid out like freebies to move his narratives. How many times did Celine catch his mother in her personal trainer’s flat? Isn’t once enough? When Charlotte suddenly finds Mariel nauseated, there was a suggestive glance exchanged between the wife and the ex-wife, you’d think Charlotte would start getting suspicious, but she didn’t. Whenever a scene is expected to shift its plot, the music swells – you’d think the sky's going to start falling anytime.

Lana is ill at ease being a megman. And if I were to be very blunt about it, he is wanting of talent where visual story telling is concerned. Stick to what you do best, Mr. Lana, and leave film direction to those who know what they’re doing.

Otherwise, we’re all stuck in strung-out melodramas that make bad actresses out of good ones – like Maricel Soriano. It is such a revolting comeback vehicle for someone of Soriano's stature. Isn't that sad?

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