Almost a decade has passed since the last time I watched a Filipino film in the movie theatre, yet I remember the experience as though it were yesterday. The movie I remember watching was Sigaw (The Echo) a horror movie that was part of the 2004 Metro Manila Film Festival which starred Iza Calzado, Richard Gutierrez and Angel Locsin (I don’t remember the others, forgive me). In my opinion, the experience proved to be an inappropriate introduction to Filipino films, as I remember not being able to sleep for the next few nights, worried that blood would drip from the ceiling where a dead person lay watching me, or that a little ghost child was hiding under my bed. Even the movie’s plot proved to be traumatizing to me, as I recall picturing the horrific events in the film before I slept. That, in turn, would cause me not to sleep at all.
Ever since that not-so pleasant experience, I have found myself voluntarily kept away from watching local movies in theaters, and the next few movies I’ve seen were all Hollywood films (The Lucky One, The Avengers…). In fact, just like any other person these days I’m the type who grew up on Hollywood movies, finding myself to be more knowledgeable about foreign stars and foreign entertainment news then their local counterparts.
So needless to say, I was nothing short of prepared for the worst when I decided (or we decided, rather) to watch a Philippine film on, of all days, New Years Day. I’m not exactly in the mood to explain the origin of such at the moment, but all I can say is we did it solely out of shear boredom and the need to ‘do something and go out’ on the first day of the New Year.
Anyways… let’s talk about the movie.
We originally planned to watch the vastly underrated Brilliante Mendoza film ‘Thy Womb’, unfortunately we couldn’t because the film was rated R-13 and we brought our seven-year-old sister along. It was then we were left with choosing between the conyo romp ‘Sosy Problems’ and the comedy ‘Sisterakas’. We opted for the second one.
Sisterakas tells the story of Bernardo ‘Totoy’ Sabroso and his half sister Detty (played by Vice Ganda and Ai-Ai Delas Alas, respectively). The two have a seemingly ‘okay’ childhood, save for the early hints of Bernardo (later Bernice)’s homosexuality and Detty’s clear inclination towards a future in fashion design. There is also a visible contrast between their abilities (as children, Detty receives an award for Best in Art whilst Bernardo takes every other medal–foreshadowing, perhaps?). Things take a bitter turn when Detty’s mother discovers that Bernardo’s mom (who works as the maid of Detty’s family), has been sleeping with Detty’s father. In a fit of bitter rage, Detty’s mother pushes Bernardo’s mother down the stairs, rendering her paralyzed and kicking her out of the house. In a bitter rage, Bernardo promises to take revenge on the Sabroso family for what they did to his mother.
Fast-forward a large number of years, we notice that Bernardo has become a lot of things: successful, open, and well, downright fashionable. She has also seemed to develop a diva-like attitude. Detty, on the other hand, lives a much simpler yet less successful life with two daughters (Kathryn Bernardo and Xyriel Manabat). The two siblings cross paths once more when Detty applies for the job of Bernice’s new executive assistant. Knowing that she is hiring her half-sister for the job, Bernice puts her through a series of uber-hard tasks, all of which are designed to make her pay for what her family did to Bernice (formerly Bernardo’s family). A cutesy insertion into the film is a ‘love’ subplot between Bernice’s nephew and Detty’s daughter (played by the annoyingly forever-trending Kathniel love team). Kris Aquino plays the supporting role of annoying fashion house rival Roselle Hermosa, whom is hell-bent on bringing down Pony Tale (Bernice’s fashion company).
There is no genuine ‘standout’ in this movie in terms of acting, as it is not the acting nor the story that takes center stage in this film but the pop culture punch lines. It takes a certain kind of person to tolerate Vice Ganda’s over-the-top wardrobe and mannerisms, and it takes a whole other kind of person to tolerate Kris Aquino’s attempts to reference her failed marriage and the fact that her brother is president. Yet the critic at GMA News is somewhat correct in saying Ai-Ai Delas Alas proves to be the ‘saving grace’ of the movie, offering the same ‘standard issue Pinoy comedy’ that has made her a household name, whilst staying true to the constant punch lines the film delivers with machine gun precision. I honestly saw no genuine need for the inclusion of the ‘Kathniel’ factor into the Sisterakas equation, as it was not given much screen time to truly shine and be appreciated by fans of this new love team. Yet one can agree that casting the two was a good choice, as it added to the movie’s ‘star power’. One could also consider the addition of young and talented Xyriel Manabat as a ‘star power’ ploy, as even she isn’t even given much chance to shine in the movie.
Script-wise, the movie excels in it’s ability to bring out joke after joke, but that’s about it. A gaping plot hole is present in Bernice’s revenge motivation towards the Sabroso family, as it is Bernice’s mother who has brought pain upon the Sabroso family and not the other way around. Earlier parts of the film suggest that there was no visible ‘abuse’ brought about by the family towards Bernice and his mom, save for her paralyzation.
In a nutshell, it’s the lead actors’ ability to bring out laughs and their jokes that make this movie what it is. One needs a number of things before he/she can genuinely enjoy this film. The first of those things is the ability to tolerate the most over-the-top things. Whether or not we like to admit it, not everyone can manage not to cringe upon seeing Vice Ganda wear the most over-the-top of outfits. Another ‘point of annoyance’ is Kris Aquino. Although some might laud her for openly making fun of herself and her relationship woes, there is no denying the fact that her mannerisms aren’t always tolerable, especially for a number of discriminating moviegoers. Without the ability to tolerate such people, one could not find the movie enjoyable and instead regard ‘Sisterakas’ as the most annoying thing they could ever watch.
Basically, acquired taste is what makes the difference between P200 well-spent on an afternoon of laughs, or money wasted watching a cringe-worthy comedy.