Review: Frasco Mortiz's THE REUNION
In his episode in Cinco (Five, 2010), Star Cinema's episodic horror that featured body parts in various morbid tales, Frasco Mortiz has a bunch of neophyte fratmen desperately pulling a severed zombie hand from another teenager's crotch in slow motion while a popular pop song about the pleasures of romantic hand-holding plays in the background. In a matter of a minute or so, Mortiz displayed a youthful wit and a playful appreciation of pop culture that was strange and unusual within the world of commercial filmmaking for which he decided to eke out a career from. The scene was more than clever, it was actually oddly inspired. It was a sketch that merged genre conventions, generational humor, ridicule on traditional concepts of institutionalized machismo, to form something genuinely watchable.
The Reunion, Mortiz's first feature length film, makes most of the same wit and pop culture appreciation. In fact, he mostly relies on them. The film is largely composed of jokes and gags strung together by an illogical plot about losers (Enchong Dee, Xian Lim, Enrique Gil, and Kean Cipriano) blaming their unsuccessful high school romances for their present misfortunes. It is entertaining enough, unburdened by any baggage to mean anything other than guiltless and shallow amusement. It is as harmless as morning breeze, light, fleeting, but entirely forgettable.
Perhaps Mortiz overdoes the youth bit, or at least the bit that pertains to that portion of the youth who have spent majority of the years they have lives consuming hyperactive music videos and numbing videogames. The Reunion does not have genre limitations to play around with. Youth is the genre. In diluting the film with rapid images, giddy transitions between scenes, and limitless pop culture references, Mortiz risks being vapid and redundant. The film in fact crosses that thin line between tact and tastelessness so often, it becomes confusing whether the film is nothing more than an overblown joke on the paraded promises of a truly promise-less youth.
As with any film that relies on multiple narratives, the inconsistent quality of the stories becomes a too obvious problem. The Reunion, in tackling the quest of its four losers in winning back their high school loves, exposes its inability to nurture storylines. The bit about wannabe-rocker (Cipriano) who is more than surprised to learn that her former beau has opted to model skimpy bikinis for a living is the weakest of the bunch. The most promising is perhaps the thread on the angst-ridden social climber (Lim) who belatedly finds out that he has a son with his high school sweetheart. The other two stories are largely quick plots that are recycled to frame either funny or syrupy sketches.
It is all forgivable. It fascinates with its pedestrian charms. What it does not need is the tremendous weight of being a tribute to the legendary Eraserheads, whose contribution to the local music transcended social classes and generations. The film's appreciation of the musicality of the beloved band ranges from something as perfunctory as naming characters from the personalities that populated the lyrics of the group's most famous anthems to something as misplaced as stolid accompaniment to the film's many unabashedly cheesy moments.
Mortiz never graduates from the trite popularity and instant pleasures of the melodies. He does not go beyond that, neglecting to explore the depth and the darkness of the sad fate of the sweet girl he once danced the El Bimbo with, to dissect the masked poverty in the seemingly inane lyrics about the want to drive a car that one is unable to afford, to display the warped romanticism of falling deeper in love with a former innocent crush-turned-centerfold model. Simply put, The Reunion barely scraped the surface of what the music is about, what the music means to many who treasure it more for how the songs spoke to them rather than how popular they have become over the years. It is but a paltry tribute.
(Cross-published in Lessons from the School of Inattention)
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