Sunday, December 30, 2012

Wenn Deramas' Sisterakas - Inscrutable and Derivative

Vice Ganda’s roles always thrive on the element of revenge. In “Petrang Kabayo”, his character, Peter grew up with an abusive father, prodding him to run away until a rich spinster (Eugene Domingo) adopts him for her son. But grown up Peter is a successful businessman who’s bitter, mean and wrecks havoc on the people who works for him. In Wenn Deramas’ “Sisterakas”, Vice Ganda is no different. He plays Bernice, the bastard son of a rich man (Epy Quizon) borne out of the latter’s indiscretions with the maid (Gloria Diaz). Mother and son Bernice were eventually thrown out of the house. Bernice grows up successful and, like his character in “Petrang Kabayo”, spiteful and feared by his staff. Not a few of his past 387 executive assistants have resigned while the current one (Melai Cantiveros) is, in fact, jumping off the ledge of their high rise building.

Bernice, now owner of an apparel firm, will only settle down once he has taken his revenge on the family who pushed his mother off the stairs (she’s now a paraplegic). Trouble is, he couldn’t locate them. Meanwhile, Dette (Ai-Ai de las Alas), Bernice’s half-sister has fallen on hard times. Unemployed and a single parent, Dette raises two daughters Kathy (Kathryn Bernardo) and Cindy (Xyriel Manabat). She’s also desperate for a job. And as fate would have it, she falls into the trap that would have Bernice fulfill his vengeful dream of making Dette’s life a living hell. Bernice would, for example, have Dette wash a truckload of curtains, or send her off to Lipa for dalandans straight from the hands of Governor Vilma. But Dette perseveres for her children. How very “Tanging Ina”, debah?

It’s also becoming clear that Dette has fashion acumen that could help Bernice’s sagging sales as competition with rival Roselle (Kris Aquino) is fierce. What’s worse, a mole (DJ Durano) is divulging the company’s classified projects to Roselle. Will Dette survive Bernice’s sadistic ways? Moreover, will Dette accept Roselle’s lucrative offer to work for her? 

Director Wenn Deramas’ latest opus banks on his stars’ impeccable comic skills as there’s really not much to chew where its derivative story is concerned. A good part of the movie feels like déjà vu. We're sure we’ve seen these scenes in the recent past.

Kris Aquino’s character is similar to Judy Anne Santos’ presence in “Enteng Kabisote”. She doesn’t belong in the story. This isn’t saying that Aquino did horribly as the campy Roselle. She was in fact fun to watch as she overstepped her usual thespic boundaries, frivolously making fun of herself (“like a bad Kris Aquino horror experience”), her failed marriage (“natuto na ako diyan” in relation to pre-nuptial agreements), and the oft repeated, “Yap, yap, yap”! When asked about basketball, she gamely quipped: “Tapos na ako dyan. I’m so over it.” When a personality of her stature consents to spoof the unpalatable chapters of her public life, this only highlights her level of maturity, not to mention strength of character. And we could only commend Kris Aquino for her irresistible turn in “Sisterakas”, though she has to do something about her “sinister laugh” which sounds as fraudulent as her two-inch lashes.

Vice Ganda and Ai-Ai delas Alas do well, but Ganda needs a fresher take on the oft-repeated tale of the vengeful gay man. His quips are as delectable, but they’re also turning familiar. In time, people would get tired of similar comedic approaches – and that would be too sad. Ai-Ai has really mastered her dramedian skills that makes it easy to empathize with her. Unfortunately, all this enthusiasm is hobble by mediocre writing, stale situations, and poor production values.

Check out the “chin prosthesis” placed on the child playing the young Ai-Ai. Any idiot could easily point out the fake chin due to skin color discrepancy. Now isn’t this easily remediable? Why were they too lazy to fix this snag? Simple! Because they can’t be bothered. This after all is comedy, thus “puwede na yun”. Curiously, this mentality has won them a “3rd Best Picture Award”. And please remind me what exactly did Best Supporting Actress winner Wilma Doesnt do to even merit a nomination? Was she better than Cherry Pie Picache in “The Strangers”? It makes you wonder if the board of judges really watched the entries – or were they merely guessing? Wilma’s award is truly inscrutable. The only vaguely memorable scene with her was this:

Waitress to Vice Ganda: Black coffee, maa’m?
Vice Ganda: Black coffee for the black lady. (He looks at Wilma who couldn't even react to this. She was so lost. A truly award-winning moment.)

Kathryn Bernardo as Kathy, one of Dette's daughters, figures in an impish story line involving Angelo Santos (Daniel Padilla) who's been adopted into Bernice's family. As part of his uncle's revenge, he was to make Kathy fall in love with him, before he ultimately breaks her heart. But Kathy isn't so easy to please - not with his cheesy pick-up lines and loopy smile. Angelo gets head over heels taken by the winsome young lady. The pair provides bubble gum moments in the busy exposition. Unfortunately, though Kathryn and Daniel are charming performers, theirs is a disposable subplot. Daniel's scenes with Vice are as playful (like their wheelchair scene).

Other performers do walk-on parts: Tirso Cruz III plays Kris Aquino's dad; Daniel Matsunaga plays Marlon, the Brazilian model recruited by Kris who eventually signed up for Vice's firm (Ai-Ai helped him fix his flat tire on the way to the signing of the documents); DJ and model David Callum, Beauty Gonzales, Maliksi Morales, the hilarious Joey Paras (playing Ai-Ai's friend); and Luis Manzano (believed to be Deramas' cinematic lucky charm - but what would that make DJ Durano?) :)


Prior to Deramas’ speech when he accepted this highly contentious award, Kris Aquino enumerated some of MMFF’s previous Best Picture winners: “Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Kayo Ngayon” (1976), “Himala” (1982), “Jose Rizal” (1998). There’s more: “Kisap Mata” (1981), “Karnal” (1983), etc. So it was jarring to watch Deramas accept a 3rd Best Picture Award within the realm of the aforementioned masterpieces. Is "Sisterakas" the new age legacy of excellence? The criteria for “best” have radically metamorphosed into something gag-inducing in the last 10 years or so. “Enteng Kabisote: Okay Ka Fairy Ko – The Legend Goes On and On and On” won its Best Picture Trophy in 2006. I am still reeling from that win. Are we truly rooting for a historical faux pas or just plain mediocrity?

Vice Ganda and Ai-Ai delas Alas play half-siblings.

Kris Aquino: unexpectedly funny as Roselle, the contravida.

Kathryn Bernardo (as Kathy) and Daniel Padilla (as Angelo)


Anonymous said...

your lack of mention of Kathryn's and Daniel's subplot proves that their subplot is as unnecessary as CBCP's counter-aguments against the RH Bill.


Cathy Pena said...

They're unnecessary. LOL

But I should've have, I guess, for the sake of their hundreds of fans. Sige I'll add a paragraph.

Happy New Year, Jason. :)

patrick said...

i watched this movie, i must say that i wasnt impressed at all. isnt it that AI AI was offered by kris' character, town house and a car, but at the end of the movie when ai-ai goes to the abandoned warehouse, she's till live in that old house and took a cab. where's the car and townhouse???
and wilma doesnt? best supporting actress? how come?!
daniel-kathryn can be removed in the movie without spoiling the whole movie. well it's just my opinion.

Cathy Pena said...

@ Patrick:

Agree on all points. :)

Melanie said...

I agree to everything you said Cathy! Maraming inconsistencies sa movie especially sa props and design. Unang scene pa lang sa pabrika, obvious na 'yung sticker logo sa damit ng factory workers. I didn't expect that sa isang mainstream movie na may budget. Of course somehow people expect to see great production.

Thanks to Ai Ai and her great performance, natawa ako sa movie. Of course, super hilarious ang surprise dance scene ni Kris. Ahahaha!

Cathy Pena said...

@ Melanie,

Most things Wenn Deramas does is hurried, thus the finished product is one of mediocrity. Most of the time, it's the "pwede na yan" mentality thus props, settings, scenes, CG's, continuity aren't well thought of.

Oo nga, the "Labada-bango" dance sequence was hilarious. People inside the cinema laughed the way they spoofed that commercial. :)
Deramas films are mostly a hit-and-miss wonder.

patrick said...

yun ang problem sa mga films natin, it's so obvious na minamadali, to the point na hindi na nila nahihimay mga maliliit na details.
one more problem that i saw was, all of their punch-lines were "gasgas" na. sa showtime palang eh lagi ko na nakikita, kaya para sakin di na sya nakakatawa. i think 2-3x lang ako tumawa ng natural, the rest is just a "haha".

Cathy Pena said...

@ Patrick:

I think the brain storming during the story conference (if ever there was one) came from 2 to 3 heads alone. Deramas has exhausted most of his artistic ideas half a decade ago. He badly needs to hibernate and sleep for a decade more.

Anonymous said...

which reminds me: this is Kathryn's and Daniel's second disposable subplot after 24/7 In Love


Cathy Pena said...


True, but at least Kathryn's part pieced together all the disparate stories in Star Cinema's "24/7 in Love".

Anonymous said...

@patrick - just want to point out that this problem is not exclusive to filipino films, but it is indeed exclusive to mediocre filmmakers like wenn deramas. Even big budget hollywood films are susceptible to this problems, check out "piranhaconda" for example. -juan