Friday, April 22, 2011

'Merika (Gil Portes)

Contemplating a decision.

Combining suspicious love with the sentiments and longing of America-dwelling Filipinos whose minds and hearts continually goes through conflicts of decisions, some slight politics that highlights helpless idealism and the brewing turmoil of 80's Philippines, you get "'Merika". It stars Nora Aunor and Bembol Roco, which gave effectively contrasting performances regarding the different sides of state of minds of Filipinos on foreign lands.

We see Bembol's character Mon embrace and patronize the commercial and financial advantages of living in 'Tate' with some sort of distorted pragmatism, even going as far as calling the Philippines as an 'impractical hell'. This is where Bembol Roco really shined through the whole film. He displayed this closeted arrogance and colonial mindset with suppressed aggressiveness. He announces his extreme admiration with the American way of life with depleted shouts and air of mystery, fancying wines yet with glaring eyes that suggests something ominously deficient in his wholeness: He does not have any legal papers.

I cannot say that he is the direct antagonist of the film; his Mon is a very complicated character trapped in a situation that he is willing to get out of but has seemingly accepted a long time ago. He goes on a cycle of foreign existence, treading luxuries of expensive wines and credited cars. Yet, I still think he wants love more than anything else; it's just that he's too consumed by the minute details of the ideal, commercial western lifestyle that he considers the rest of his narrow world nothing more than minuscule.

Even before Mr. Bembol Roco triggered his persona as a stereotypical villain, psychotically speaking, of Philippine cinema, I think this is his most ambiguously villainous performance in the sense of how his character considerably preys on everything advantageous, yet through his eyes, there's a hint of a primordial defeat. In a sense, he has embraced not just the entirety of the American way, but also his embittered helplessness. Finding Mila (Nora Aunor's character), he located a two-way victory: Easy romance and his papers. His two ways versus her existential crossroad.

Nora Aunor's Mila is a striving nurse that gets more than enough income but less than enough sense of belonging. Again, like most of her characters on screen, Mila is torn between the budding idea of love (that teeters between quiet desperation and sexual victory) and a clamor for the true one (the Philippines. Yes, sentimental it maybe, but it's how it is) she has left behind. Mila is, in some ways, the 'Dorothy' to America's 'Oz'. She discovered the ease of income, the company of some friends, and the pure wonder of commercialism at its peak, like how Dorothy befriended some colorful eccentrics and established herself as a figure for the further adventures of the yellow brick road.

It may seem unsound to compare a timeless fantasy tale to a film dealing with the confusion of one's foreign integration, but it's the first analogy that came into my mind. And though 'Oz' came out much more colorful than the sepia-toned Kansas, Dorothy couldn't have said it better: "There's no place like home."

"'Merika", penned by Doy Del Mundo Jr. and Gil Quito and directed by Gil Portes, does not necessarily discourage those trying their lucks to align themselves with the promises of 'Tate'. It has shown different perspectives, and though Mila, the chief protagonist, ultimately came into a critical decision, the film strengthened its stance that it was her choice and hers alone; the film instead divulge the idea of easement and hope and the grounded summation that individualism and a concrete goal are the ones that are truly vital against alienating anxieties more than anything else. With that thematic direction, I think "'Merika" highly succeeded.


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