Here Comes the Bride (Chris Martinez, 2010) May 20, 2010Posted by Richard Bolisay in Asian Films, Noypi, Queer.
Here comes the groom-va-va-voom
Written and directed by Chris Martinez
Cast: Angelica Panganiban, Eugene Domingo, Jaime Fabregas, John Lapus, Tuesday Vargas
Something interesting happened as we got up from our seats to leave after watching Here Comes the Bride. It’s the last full show, and indeed the theater was full of people; and they were all talking about parts of the film that made them laugh as they walked to the door. Then, this bit in the end came up, some sort of footnote to the film concerning the five characters, and these people walked back, stopped, stayed, and laughed. That’s a rare sight—that walking out and walking back and being satisfied, happy with the effort, and walking out again, content and convinced of what they have just seen—which says a lot about the film itself.
The humor of Chris Martinez’s writing is something I liken to Joyce Bernal’s touch in directing. Bernal does not usually write scripts but her films make you feel as if she writes them: there is seamlessness between writing and directing which makes her comedies work. Her hands are everywhere; her personality is in every nook and cranny of the film, either in good or bad parts; and her comic timing, exemplified by her experience as editor, is unique in its campiness. Martinez also has that personality in his scripts. His wit comes out naturally, as if his dialogues are something he steals from people he knows. He has this knack for setting up difficult situations and making them appear light, grounded, and amusing—a characteristic of his writing that defends the depth of the genre, which has lost its followers in recent years. That’s basically the reason why Kimmy Dora worked.
But directing is a whole different arena. I admit enjoying Martinez-written films more than the films he directed—which is unfair because he has only made two films so far—but I am sure he can catch up. Bridal Shower is a nice turning point in Jeffrey Jeturian’s career, and Caregiver seems to be the ripest among the films that Chito Roño keeps churning out recently. Months after the release of Caregiver, Martinez made his debut in Cinemalaya. 100 is a total crowd-pleaser and has put Mylene Dizon’s talent to good use, which is something everyone has long been waiting for from her. Its pacing and unevenness, however, deters it from nailing everything together, which for me is forgivable despite its glossiness. Considering its aspiration to make matters mutual, its independent credentials teem with what most people perceive as its mainstream appeal.
Here Comes the Bride, his second feature, suffers from the same thing, though again that glitch is easily forgiven—for reasons that entertainment in movies these days is so rare its viewers can be a little too soft—so it’s only a matter of criticism—specifically, the prerogative of it—that this must be said, regardless of enjoying the film.
Every genre has its imperative, and comedies are easy to scrutinize if the basis of scrutiny will only be whether the film has made you laugh or not. But that will not be scrutiny: that is just plain reaction toward the film. Plain reactions, however, are more insightful than scrutiny; and observations, sometimes, are more interesting than discussions. Take for instance: the roar of laughter (and I’m not exaggerating this) inside the theater when Angelica Panganiban (whose body is occupied by John Lapus) strikes a pose in the most ludicrous stretch of face and body possible, and exclaims “Pak! Pak! Pak!” in front of the wedding photographer. The response was boisterous as if it’s the same crowd who jeered, decades ago, when FPJ got killed in a film. Considering that that’s just one of the many moments when the crowd went a bit wild, still, those reactions, which we don’t normally see in crowds (frankly because it is not too often that local movies get flocked by such number of audience), reveal how Martinez is able to connect successfully with his viewers’ sensibilities.
Though the connection, if I may inject my scrutiny, is a little choppy. Not that the gags don’t work every time—they work more than they don’t—but I have this doubt that a second viewing of the film can deliver the wit better or just as well. The structure doesn’t hold very much, as it tends to prolong undecidedly and overdo the humor stiffly, but is saved thankfully by the dialogues and the actors’ performances. I get this confusion in some scenes whether I should laugh or not, which becomes more urgent especially when you are surrounded by people who determine your reaction for you. To laugh or not brings the intellectual mind forward, but the emotional mind is still very much absorbed in the film. I am also trying to observe the audience—which is one of the privileges of these well-attended screenings, no matter how unethical—to prove my expectations wrong—the same way I am wondering at these very people who elected a President Aquino and a Senator Marcos a few days ago—that we are only fanatical of gay stories to make fun of them, or to laugh at their ways for our own enjoyment. I am still thinking of an answer to that—especially, using the example above, that these are also the same people who enjoy watching a gay Angelica Panganiban and still are close-minded and judgmental of homosexual relationships (or could it be that gay life is only “taken seriously” if it’s only in a movie?)—but for now I believe, despite working with stereotypes, Martinez hits the nail on the head with his spot-on dialogues and characters who connect well with each other. Even Tom Rodriguez is unfazed by countless lip-locking with Eugene Domingo, which curiously lets down the usual macho image of the groom (well, of course, this is a gay movie so men are treated with wishfulness), making the idea of a man more interesting and far from dominating. Angelica Panganiban, on the other hand, dons her Rubi attitude—her “gandang demonyo”—and wipes us all out.
At the expense of pleasure I see these nits: in truly exceptional parts, the discord between the script and how it is handled on screen (the skit when the five characters find out the owners of their bodies, or the second eclipse in the end that reenacts the accident), the surprise of the opening credits that did not help set the pace better, and the little things that just bother me (the “scramble” thrown in Eugene’s face, or the necessity of putting her with the pigs at the rear of the truck, though again I understand they are part of the slapstick). I’m thinking along the lines of comedies that don’t need to make fun of their characters physically to make the audience laugh, but I am sure there is a long cultural explanation to that, and I won’t be self-righteous to deny my enjoyment over those gags. And there is history to that, too. I’m sure talky-“intellectual whoring”-comedies will not sell immensely like Here Comes the Bride, even with actors of good box-office reputation (like Ai-Ai de las Alas who went downhill after Ang Tanging Ina).
But this one’s too good to pass up. And this only proves how little Star Cinema intervention (which served as the film’s main marketing arm) can do wonders. It’s an excellent model: small production houses like Quantum Films or Spring Films do the writing and hiring of production staff, since they know better; and Star Cinema peeps, who know better in promotion and distribution, and has an omnipotent television facility, spread the word. There is compromise but it’s still a win-win situation—in both financial and artistic terms—if only pride does not get in the way. Hence, turnout of films, in terms of quality and quantity, can boost local cinema even more. Now that’s something I propose to my friends over there.