Review: Olivia Lamasan's THE MISTRESS

The Mistress has a plot that feels taken straight out of one of those cheap trashy novels, the ones with tacky covers promising sleazy escapism with impossible love stories set in unbelievable milieus that enunciate pulpy passions. It is grounded on that very basic story where hapless women are made to choose between two lovers, representing either true love or elusive security. Director Olivia Lamasan and writer Vanessa Valdez overhaul the overused tale, turning the central woman into a mistress of a wealthy businessman, and her other man as that wealthy businessman's rebellious heir. The film contributes a tad more sophistication to the tired genre, with characters struggling with love that is more the conflict rather than the resolution to the story.

When JD (John Lloyd Cruz), an architect who is wrestling with the prospect of being the heir to his despised father's businesses, discovers that Sari (Bea Alonzo), the girl he's been trying so hard to woo, is also the kept mistress of his father (Ronaldo Valdez), he decides to discontinue his plans of winning the girl's heart out of disgust and disdain. He then unexpectedly gets a glimpse of Sari's finer qualities that also lured his father to loving her. This gets him drawn further into her, making him fall desperately in love with her to the point of battling with his own father to win the undivided affections of the woman they unwillingly share.

The film only has impressions of complexity. Lamasan and Valdez are more interested in the tearful tragedies of a truncated romance rather than the more thrilling intricacies of characterization. As a result, the characters are solely motivated by amorous passions, despite the sliver and hints of darkness in their narrative arcs. The Mistress has traces of a film with more valid and realistic psychological undertones, with people acting and reacting not solely with their needy hearts but with their brains, hormones, and stomachs. With its interplay of classic archetypes interacting within a setting of familial and corporate power struggle, it could have been something more than the syrupy weeper that it is.

However, to expect more depth and sophistication than necessary from a studio film is utter folly. The Mistress mostly succeeds in delivering what it advertises --- a glossy display of heavily orchestrated romantic entanglements of the extremely rich and goodlooking as only a studio can come up with. Its efforts in glamorizing the courtship game with the leads' unabashed delivery of bathetic declarations of love during plentiful serendipitous encounters pay off. Cruz and Alonzo play both the roles of joyous lovers and tragic victims of fate effortlessly. It is simply not difficult to get drawn to their characters' plights, to get absorbed in their individual dramas, to get swept away in their hopeless hearts' ambitions.

The film's ending is delightfully ingenious, making use of a previous fantasy set-up to evoke as an impossible dream the scenario that is the happy ending a cynical realist is dreading. It is achingly realistic without being too melancholic. Despite the endeavor for realism in its conclusion, The Mistress is still not dark enough. Its characters, from the family-loving mistress to the apologetic wife, are too good-natured and amiable. Its attempts at sensuality are limited to choreographed seductions within the cramped space of a fitting room or lousily-filmed lovemaking under the spell of a Snow Patrol radio-hit. Although wrapped with a tad more grit and tragedy, the film still peddles the all too familiar fantasy of love conquers all that audiences are too willing to gobble up mindlessly. It aims to simply please. And that, I believe, is the both the film's biggest strength and downfall.

(Cross-published in Lessons from the School of Inattention.)
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  • Kirsten Zang

    I don't see much tagalog movies at all, except when I'm in the mood for a scary movie. This story, however, doesn't disappoint. It was unexpectedly very classy and well-made. The plot was very much predictable, but the delivery and timing was so exquisite. I can't help but applaud the director, scriptwriter, and of course, the actors. The cinematography was fantastic!

    A minor irritation was that the lead, Sari, was a tad underplayed: a typical stereotype of a weak woman. As a feminist, I would have preferred Sari to have pursued an education. The strength in her character was utterly diminished by her lack of conviction. It was gratifying to see though, that with everything at her disposal and immense opportunity to expand her horizon, she remained down-to-earth and stood by her family.

    The ending was so bitter sweet, but hopeful. The cast was so perfect!

  • chan

    duhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Anonymous

    For an industry which has been plagued by cheap gimmickry, crappy plot/storytelling and a lot of fanservice for such a long time (and counting), this movie, though not perfect I consider as a breath of fresh air for the Philippine cinema.

  • Quietus

    Why even review this kind of dreck ?

  • Mr. Cavin

    The only compelling reason I can think of to review any film is simply because you've seen it. Since I'm not aware of any native obligation to do so, it must just be fun to do.

  • marshy00

    Perhaps you have failed to grasp what Twitch is. We are a Film Website. Reviewing films is a big part of what we do here. Or did you mean we should only review films that you like?

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