Liv (Lauren Young) and Cieca (Maxene Magalona) are kindred souls, enjoying an affinity akin to blood relatives, or aren’t they? But the two girls are poles apart in manner or temperament. While Liv is volatile and socially dismissive, Cieca is calm and well put together.
But there’s more to that where Liv comes from. She eternally whimpers about her father (Rommel Luna) whose temperament is mercurial and whose deportment is violent. Breaking a 3 PM curfew, for example, inspires a slew of endless curses and the occasional gun point, “He actually pulled the trigger,” adds Liv. Cieca thinks that Liv exaggerates, but she endures Liv’s erratic demeanor with restraint. In fact, she doesn’t mind her midnight calls: “Hindi ako naiinis.” This is Cieca’s closest rendering of family life because her “Dad’s a refrigerator and mom is underground!” (Read: He’s cool. She’s dead.)
Cieca’s father is constantly absent, but she’s well provided for. Liv’s dad, on the other hand, runs a despotic household, employing brute force at every opportunity he gets. The two girls find balance in their friendship. One day, Liv discovers that she actually shares more than just friendship with her best friend. They have the same father. This situation suddenly downspirals into rampage; one that Olivia is all too familiar with.
Director Kevin Dayrit’s “Catnip” takes an alternative approach to storytelling, sprucing his cinematic palette with a non-linear, albeit chimeral presentation. He frames his scenes with a visual cacophony that seems part documentary, part music video and part hallucination. Having said this, the film is not for everyone, thus Dayrit felt the need to point a disclaimer during one of the screenings: “You will find the film as either the simplest (sic) or most complicated. None of it is literal.” Then he goes further with, “If you don’t get it, maiinis kayo.” It isn’t amusing that someone would adumbrate his audience’s expected reaction and lace it with “you will hate it if you don’t get it”. The statement is self serving and indulgent at best. After all, whatever he says, the audience will experience the film in their own terms and no amount of repudiation can sway a thinking crowd. Unless he thinks he’s the only one with a brain, debah?
I was of course ready to hate it. No one’s gonna temper my viewing experience with contrary manipulation. When the narrative twist finally unravels, I realized there was more to the seemingly harmless banter and random aimlessness of Cieca and Liv (clowning around a busy overpass, entertaining an eager and excessively generous suitor played by Ramon Bautista, etc.) All these set the cinematic tableau for a “thickening of the plot” that shall rankle with enough pathos to last you a month. "Catnip" turns out as one of the pleasant surprises of Cinema One 2012. Any disclaimer is unnecessary.
Lauren Young is luminous and whimsical as Liv. Maxene Magalona, who plays the less showy character, provides the perfect antidote to Young’s unpredictable volatility. I have always thought of Young as an insightful actress and it’s hard to dislike her even in godawful flicks like Krizzie Syfu’s “Tahanan”. There are cameos: Megan Young plays a geeky professor; Elmo Magalona also appears in a hilarious Skype scene where he serenades Liv who treats him with grave disinterest.
I am still trying to get through the title: “Catnip” is a flowering mint plant that attracts cats. It has volatile oils that cats react to: they get stimulated, anxious, relaxed or contemplative. There are “no known ill effects” from catnips which, if you consider the film’s eventual denouement, should be clearly contradictory. But then we were forewarned: none of it is literal. How convenient.
|Lauren Young is Olivia|
|Maxene Magalona is Cieca.|
|Seemingly harmless movie marathon.|
|Rommel Luna is a mercurial father.|
|Cat's affiliation to the catnip aka catmint.|