Rakenrol (Quark Henares, 2011) September 22, 2011Posted by Richard Bolisay in Asian Films, Music, Noypi.
Written by Quark Henares and Diego Castillo
Directed by Quark Henares
Cast: Jason Abalos, Glaiza de Castro, Ketchup Eusebio, Alwyn Uytingco, Diether Ocampo
It takes a rather distant observer, someone whose knowledge and experience of local music are no match to Quark Henares and Diego Castillo’s, to put Rakenrol in some kind of sober perspective. Two observations are worthy of mention: first, if Rakenrol were intended to pay tribute to the glory days of Pinoy rock music, then the film misses the point. By piling details on details and cameos on cameos, the movie lays more tracks than its narrative can maneuver into, most of which split in the middle and spoil some of the film’s heartfelt moments. Second, among the people from that era who bear witness to its humble beginnings and touching end, Henares is the best person to tell its story. Sadly, he blew that precious opportunity. His insistence on sidetracking and celebrity grazing ends up in drudgery, showing his bad habit of biting off more than he can actually chew.
Contrary to popular belief, movies whose main firearm is nostalgia are not foolproof. Since their attack aims straight at the heart, they expose their weaknesses as much as their strengths, making them more vulnerable to scrutiny. At the center of Rakenrol is Odie (Jason Abalos), who falls in love with his best friend, Irene (Glaiza de Castro). They share CDs and posters, talk about songs on the radio, and watch gigs of their favorite bands together. He writes songs about her and records them. She eventually gets around listening to them, oblivious that they speak to her, Odie too shy to admit his feelings. Driven by their passion for music, they decide to form a band. Mo (Ketchup Eusebio) and Junfour (Alwyn Uytingco) join them, completing Hapipaks’s lineup and in a way forming a circle around the couple, allowing Odie to express her affection for Irene less implicitly. But a douchebag named Jacci Rocha (Diether Ocampo) gets in the way. Irene is besotted with her obsession for Jacci, the egotistic and megalomaniac vocalist of Baron Münchausen, and Odie has no choice but to stay put as Jacci breaks her heart and his.
Rakenrol‘s story looks good on paper. Inevitably it brings to mind many music-driven movies—High Fidelity, Once, Almost Famous, Empire Records, 24-Hour Party People, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, heck, even The School of Rock. A tale of heartbreak sells anywhere, and coupled with music it only becomes more painful. Every song plays like a drug slowly taking effect, resonating like a childhood daydream. Had the story been told well, Odie and Irene’s romance would have been trapped in a magical time capsule of some sort—their love waving from such great heights, lodged inside a beautiful snow globe, entombed yet boundless—something that the filmmakers had actually envisioned for the film. Henares and Castillo, however, are too busy inserting cameos and references, which are fairly reasonable since Rakenrol is an attempt to bring back the feeling of those times, but they indulge so much in breaking the film in fragments, resulting in uneven pacing and hodgepodge plots. The film resembles an apartment where Hapipaks members throw a party: every person they know knocks and enters, and no one remembers who pukes on the couch or leaves early.
There are way too many details, and most of them are rather negligible. Gay music video director Ramon Bautista, cuckoo artist Jun Sabayton, talent manager Matet de Leon, and shady Japanese businessman Ricardo Cepeda, though quirky and entertaining to some extent, are just there for laughs. Considering that humor is better appreciated if it isn’t too eager to please, these characters don’t serve much purpose, unless the intent of the film is to show off what its filmmakers are capable of achieving. Henares and Castillo are obviously more concerned with recreating cultural atmosphere, which is not only limited to music, and that would have been commendable if the narrative isn’t so gangly. In fact, its lankiness is disturbing; remove the fat and what’s left is a story that relies so much on the periphery. For instance, it should have been a joyful moment when Ely Buendia appears fortuitously near the end—the idea of chancing upon him at Ministop feeds on every 90s kid’s fantasy—but by the time he rambles on life and inspiration, all fluffy and frothy, seemingly embodying the entirety of the movie, it turns out to be a failed suicide attempt. That short scene is totally unbearable, worse than Ely’s worst song, and it’s because the movie can’t decide whether to humanize or dehumanize him.
The saving grace of the movie would have been Hapipaks, but the band is reduced to a convenient pretext for Odie to be with Irene, something that happens in real life when love messes up with one’s priorities. Irene makes it sweeter, but in fact Hapipaks is Odie’s dream with or without her. He is a songwriter, a musician, an avid fan of rock music. Hapipaks is more than Irene. Even if she doesn’t say yes, Hapipaks is a reminder of memories before she became part of Odie’s life. Rakenrol loses sight of that. As the credits start to roll, the idea of forming a band, finding a manager, performing at bars, and releasing a record all seems superficial. More than anything else in the movie, no matter how thin it is, the love story sucks everything in, the joys and struggles of being in a band, the bittersweet smell of success, the comfort of good music. Odie and Irene should have taken the sinking boat and pointed it home, but they wasted their time.
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