Review: Wenn Deramas' THIS GUY'S IN LOVE WITH U MARE!

There is this one particular scene in Wenn Deramas' This Guy's in Love with U Mare! That sums up the film's curious and confused take on gender politics. Lester (Vice Ganda) and Gemma (Toni Gonzaga) arrive at a comedy club. True to the culture of local comedy clubs, the trio, composed of two tactless gays and a similarly crude woman, hosting the night's program suddenly take turns in pouncing on the club's new guests with supposedly funny insults. Their specific target is Lester, whose fervent pretensions of being a heterosexual male are not very effective against the hosts' especially keen senses. In unison, the hosts naughtily chant "bakla," (a derogatory term for gays) generating much laughter from the audience at the expense of poor Lester.

The blatantly insensitive jokes dodge imputations of political incorrectness because the perpetrators are also homosexuals and the perpetration is never done out of hate or derision but for fun. This self-referential and self-deprecating humor has been a staple in Filipino mainstream entertainment for several decades now. In a way, its existence signals a culture's openness and acceptance of homosexuality, allowing openly gay entertainers to strut and sashay all in the name of entertaining the masses. On the other hand, it also limits the perception of homosexuals and homosexual relationships within the mainstream as mere objects of hilarity.

This Guy's in Love with U Mare! is Deramas' third collaboration with Vice Ganda. All of the director's previous collaborations with the inexplicably popular gay entertainer, Petrang Kabayo (Petra the Horse, 2010), a reimagining of Luciano Carlos' 1988 Roderick Paulate-starrer Petrang Kabayo at ang Pilyang Kuting (Petra the Horse and the Naughty Kitten), and Praybeyt Benjamin (2011), a modern restyling of the story of Mulan, instruct on very elementary gay issues such as tolerance or acceptance in what supposedly is a macho society through a narrative that relies too heavily on meandering slapstick and acerbic witticisms. This Guy's in Love with U Mare! at least invests on some sort of story that allows Vice Ganda to do something more than rehash his tired television antics.

Mike (Luis Manzano) has just broken up with Lester, his benefactor and boyfriend for several years, to marry Gemma, a bank teller who is clueless about her beau's past gay relationship. To win Mike back, Lester cooks up a plan to pretend to be straight and woo Gemma away from Mike, forcing Mike to return to him.

Deramas, although working with a tad more restraint, still indulges in the same tricks and gimmicks that peppered his previous works. Popular lines from other movies are still redelivered under more comedic circumstances for cheap chuckles. Action scenes are still sped up, or montaged, backgrounded by either a pop song or a forgettable melody. Despite the lazy repetition, Deramas still manages to display an ability to be truly witty. In a scene where Lester makes a move on Jemma by recruiting his equally flamboyant gay friends to hold-up Jemma so that he can save her, he stages and choreographs the entire fight, inspired by a classic fight scene by gay icon Darna as played by Vilma Santos in one of the superheroine's movie incarnations.

It is what it is, a disposable piece of entertainment that does not have the will or courage to reinvent the wheel. As a product of commerce, the film understandably insists on being merely lightweight, parading characters that are mere two-dimensional sketches with either a skewed or an overly simplistic understanding of gender roles and morality. The film manages to be funny within the very same framework that all comedies about self-deprecating gays are funny. Vice Ganda makes the most of the role of a gay man desperately pretending to be straight, conveniently overacting at every opportunity to stretch certain stereotypes for easy hilarity. While it is apparent that there are attempts to blur the borders between genders and relationships, it unfortunately misses the opportunity to actually create discourse out of its premise, to graduate from the decades-old subgenre.

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