Saturday, September 8, 2012

GA Villafuerte's Hardinero - Copying the Amateur Way

When gardener Mang Mario (Marco Ronquillo) had to leave his work to attend to his family in Iloilo, the De Veras find themselves in a deleterious situation! Holy molly! What will happen to the plants in the garden? Will they wither, wane and die a painful death? This disturbing scenario shakes this progressive family like it’s the apocalypse. It’s a good thing someone presents himself for the job – handsome Brando Chavez (John Canterbury) who’s in desperate need of employment to support his spouse.


The De Veras comprise siblings Lance (Jonas Gruet), the family breadwinner; voluptuous and pouty Ana (Adriana Gomez) and nubile Cyrus (Kael Reyes). They treat hardworking Brando with due civility and gives him a day off in a week so he could visit his other-half. But the comely pulchritude of fair and soft spoken Brando isn’t lost on the siblings who soon develop considerable affection for our titular character. 

Fortunately, Brando is receptive to all forms of persuasion: men, women, gays – even mute maids! He soon fosters discreet and intimate relationships with every member of the household. But he has a secret that could shatter the world of the de Veras; an arcane mystery that shall change the shape of the universe as we know it. His “asawa” is a gorgeous guy named Nikko Guanzon (Paulo Henson) who spends all his time showering away grime brought by lassitude. What happens when the De Veras find out about this? Will the world perish in a matter of seconds? More importantly, will the script writer grow cerebral tissue inside his skull?.

Scriptwriter and Director GA Villafuerte once again fabricates a tale so mundane and out-and-out ridiculous I had to laugh all the way from the opening to the credits. He places tension on the fact that his protagonist lives with a guy as though it’s his employers’ concern. Didn’t Brando tell them that he has an “asawa”? Once the De Veras knew of his homosexual relationship, all hell breaks loose. Ana, so distraught, could only slap him several times: “Walang hiya ka. Sinungaling ka!

But wait. Was Brando in an exclusive relationship with any of the siblings? Ana is, after all, in a coupling with Xyrus Arruejo whom Lance doesn’t favor. Villafuerte is so inept he can’t even build adequate tension to create an atmosphere of betrayal. Every sexual vignette doesn’t underline exclusive intimations, but mere playing around. Closeted Lance’s sole indiscretion was when he asked Brando, who subs as pool cleaner and masseur, for a massage that soon had the employer fellating his gardener ‘til kingdom come (no pun intended).


Like many Pink Film directors, Villafuerte had to submit his actors to several shower scenes – something that’s probably genetically ingrained in the artistry (or lack thereof) of gay Pinoy directors because they can’t seem to do away with multiple shower scenes to tide over their gaunt narratives. Yes, Empress Crisaldo, Director Villafuerte peppers his celluloid dreams with enough backsides he might as well be ejaculating in his director’s chair.


The performances are considerably bad and, quite frankly, ghastly with Jonas Gruet exhibiting one of the hammiest depictions of a corporate boss. In a scene reminiscent of Crisaldo Pablo’sMasukista” (with Joeffrey Javier playing the boss), Gruet tells off his incompetent employees with grated teeth, contorted facial muscles and wrinkly nose – it was painful to watch him finish a paragraph! Is he under medication? What happened to Gruet? Wasn't he a Repertory Philippines actor once upon a time in his long’ish life? Gruet is equipped with emotive affectations that distort his lips, nose and forehead as he delivers his lines. He wasn’t this bad in Del Mundo’sTaksikab”. It’s probably the presence of Villafuerte that brings out the worse in his actors. And if you think Gruet is bad, try Marco Ronquillo who is ominously billed - “sa isang espesyal na pagganap”. Special it isn’t, that’s for sure. Ronquillo, who appears for 2 minutes or so, is intimidated with any line given to him so he appears petrified delivering his lines. He freezes in mid-sentence. The eggplants in our farm have more conviction looking like vegetables than Ronquillo depicting a gardener. Gawd!

Now how's our titular hardinero? John Canterbury looks mostly amused and willing to please. If he has emotive skills, this remains unclear since the character isn't really given much to sink his thespic teeth into. I am a bit distracted by his "man boobs", but other than that, who would complain about someone as good looking as Canterbury? Better to watch a handsome man in a bad movie than ogle at ugly beings in an execrable one, debah? (Wink, wink at Crisaldo Pablo!) Do we believe for a second that Canterbury's a gardener? If this were April Fool's, maybe.

Xyrus Arruejo returns and if you remember from my previous review of GA Villafuerte's "Kapa", I predicted that Villafuerte intends to gradually "peel" Arruejo's modesty, slowly but surely until he's left waving his family's jewels for the director. In "Hardinero", the goodlooking Xyrus has a bed scene with Adriana Gomez, who may need some time with the treadmill to shed off her lipid excrescences. They play lovers who keep their relationship a secret from "strict" Jonas. While Villafuerte succeeds to take Xyrus' shirt off, canoodling with Adriana in bed, we can probably expect that those shorts would eventually come off in the director's next flick called "Nympho" - a film that also took one day to complete principal photography. And you wonder why these movies look like grade school amateur movies?


Villafuerte introduces a new talent, Paulo Henson who plays Nikko, Brando's "spouse". Henson registers strongly on screen so he could probably make it in this exploitative industry. But he'd be better off finding avenues outside Villafuerte's Mediocre Country. Did Henson do well with his lines? He didn't have any. His baptism of fire was but an arse-rich shower scene with Canterbury. Promising career, right?  

Finally, let me turn the spotlight once again to GA Villafuerte. In "Lihim ng mga Nympha", he copies an earlier flick called "Sa Piling ng mga Nympha" (2010) and didn't even acknowledge the latter. (Review for this comes out within the week.) Every scene and blocking is duplicated with utmost precision. :)

Furthermore, the intriguing concept in "Hardinero" has, in fact, been done earlier this year. In Miko Jacinto's "Salo", a closeted boss (Paolo Rivero) is in love with his stay-in driver (Kristoffer King) who's married - to a guy (Jeff Luna). Shown February this year, this similar narrative strain deserves to be given proper attribution for the blatant copying, right? Villafuerte turns the driver into a gardener. How imaginative. At least gardeners carry hoses that err "squirt" water, right? LOL

Did we expect Villafuerte to run his acknowledgement on this cinematic plagiarism? Unfortunately, GA Villafuerte is as inept with good manners as he is with his film making skills that it's beyond him to give credit where credit is due. Here's the irony, all of Villafuerte's remakes are far worse than their original copies. Yet we get to often read from his camp how he perceives his works as "another masterpiece". Aren't remakes suppose to improve the shortcomings of their predecessor? I'd probably hide in a cave if I were in his shoes. As I've said before, and I'll say it again now, the nerve!

No one requires manners in Mediocre Country.

Brando, the gardener, entertains his young employer Xyrus.

Xyrus watches Brando soaping away at the shower.

Brando offers a massage - with lotion, of course, to his boss Lance.

Lance (Jonas Gruet) turns the table around and errr... "services" his grateful gardener. Such enviable employer-employee relationship, right? 

John Canterbury (as Brando) and Adriana Gomez (as Ana)

Jonas Gruet (as Lance de Vera) and Kael Reyes (as Xyrus)

Xyrus Arruejo and Paulo Henson

Gardeners before and after Brando - Marco Ronquillo and Jayson Sampiano.

Adriana Gomez

Aeona Fuentes and Paulo Henson

Kael Reyes

John Canterbury in a male bikini pageant.


Please read our featured post on Cinema Bravo and why Web Criticism isn't always about good and reliable writing:


Gene said...

Good Day Cathy!

As always, a thorough,painful yet funny review. I have to ask though, why do keep on reviewing indie pink films despite it being mundane and ridiculous? I just can't imagine the pain you have to bear watching this movies and yet you keep coming back with one review after another. I'm not complaining though, your reviews are funny and all.

Cathy Pena said...


It's the goal of this film blog to document every single Filipino film shown in commercial theaters: the excellent, the good, the middling and the vomit-inducing. This seeks to offer a venue that puts to task every film maker so that they realize they have a duty to "consumers" who patronize their films. Someone should give them their report card. :)

Thanks for the nice words.

Melanie said...

I love your movie reviews kahit nino-nosebleed akiz :D

Cathy Pena said...


Funny! :)

Let's hope it isn't dengue. I don't wanna lose a reader who likes my bleed-worthy posts. :)


Anonymous said...

and aside from the "masterpiece" delusion, there's also that delusion in the names of the production houses involved in the project... "Sunflower Films INTERNATIONAL" and "fortune arts INTERNATIONAL"

I wonder if these are even DTI-registered as business names! but I have this theory why there's international in the names

to attract these gorgeous but gullible hunks into succumbing to their "art," so these guys can go on to feel good about baring their asses in tasteless films... coz why not? it's international and anything international is great!

-j.lax said...

I love your pink film reviews the most.

"The eggplants in our farm have more conviction looking like vegetables than Ronquillo depicting a gardener. Gawd!"

Laughed hard at this.

Cathy Pena said...

@ Jason:

And isn't it absolutely embarrassing when foreigners get to watch these so-called International Masterpieces from the Philippines? What would they think? How would it reflect on us as artists? Irony is, the really great film makers never hail themselves as such. Haay naku. :(

Cathy Pena said...


Frustration does things to me. ;)