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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Dec 2, 2013

Status: It's Complicated: Lacks The Right Wit And Style

We're honestly surprised when we learned that writer-director Chris Martinez is remaking it because it's not only difficult to duplicate or update Ishmael Bernal's original "Salawahan" on which it is based, but the material might no longer be suited to today's generation of young people. But we did give it the benefit of the doubt and didn't pre-judge it like others did, maligning it sight unseen.

The story about love, sex and relationships remains the same. Manny (Jake Cuenca now, Mat Ranillo III then) and Gerry (Paulo Avelino now, the late Jay Ilagan then) share a townhouse (they're cousins in the original). Manny is a Lothario chef who thinks he's God's gift to women. Gerry is a nerdy graphic artist who's kinda slow with women.

Manny suggests that they exchange lifestyles and this is quickly granted. He falls seriously in love with Rina (Maja Salvador now, Rio Locsin then), a smart but conservative girl who's different from the easy-to-get girls he went to bed with. Gerry, in turn, soon finds himself the object of affection of two of his clients, the sex expert Marian (the late Rita Gomez then, Eugene Domingo now) and the very forward fashion designer Sylvia (Sandy Andolong then, Solenn Heussaff now).

At the outset, let's say that in terms of visuals and production values, the new version has definitely surpassed the original. The Boracay scenes (set in Baguio in the original) are all spectacularly shot. Martinez has retained a great majority of the sharp dialogue of the original movie (written by Bernal himself and Jose Carreon), updating it a little bit here and there. He has given new funny meanings to the words hipon, lollipop and tempura. For additional updates, the characters now use cellphones. Rio then was into ballet, Maja now is into yoga. But the whole movie just didn't work for us.

Well, to begin with, we must confess that we also weren't that impressed by the original when we first saw it in 1978 and even after it became a cult favourite of some yuppies (including Martinez himself). It was a daring attempt for its time and Bernal was trying to achieve something sophisticated and European but he didn't quite succeed totally in swinging it. Still, Regal should be complimented for bankrolling both projects, which is definitely not the usual commercial kind of sex-comedy project most local film companies would give the green light to.

The actors are all attractive and try hard to live up to the demands of the material, but they're just not up to it. They can't be blamed because it's really difficult to achieve the kind of wit and style required in making it work. The funny rapid fire exchange of dialogue can be very funny if done with flair and panache, but it seems not all of them totally understand the lines that they're supposed to deliver. They're just mouthing it without fully comprehending what it all means or stands for and they just don't ring true.

Among them, it's only Eugene and Maja who seem to somewhat grasp what they're saying, so at home and comfortable in their respective role. Eugene is about a thousand of miles apart from Miss Gomez, but she does manage to make the role of the sex therapist her own, interpreting it with her usual verve and energy. Between the two guys, it's Paulo who fares better and he redeems himself after his lacklustre performance in 'The Bride and the Lover' where he was not believable at all in his drunken scene. Solenn is physically good and right for the role, but her delivery is often quite awkward.

The original movie introduced the late Rene Requiestas as a comedian, along with Bernal's "Ikaw ay Akin" where he was Christopher de Leon's houseboy (also made in 1978). He played Sandy's flamboyantly gay assistant. He's now played by theatre actor Jelson Bay and the effect is not as riotous. The lines delivered then by Rene borrowed from Rosa Rosal in 'Anak Dalita' is now replaced by Vilma Santos' lines in Bernal's 1982 film, "Relasyon" and it just falls flat.