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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Wife, a HouseHusband & a Busybody

By Mario A. Hernando (The Philippine Star) Updated December 28, 2011 12:00 AM 

Film review: My Househusband: Ikaw Na!
MANILA, Philippines - It has happened before in two earlier Metro Manila Film Festivals, and it may happen again in the current one; that is, a “mere light romantic-domestic comedy”would generate buzz, reap the major festival awards and be the overall box-office champion, beating out previously unshakeable action-fantasy-comedy spectacles.
It’s as though the people behind the movie is telling the box-office Goliaths to go ahead, play the field, draw the children in during the first few days. In the end, a broader base of moviegoers — young people, mature audiences, men and women of different social standing, and local moviegoers who do not usually watch local movies — will come to watch this much simpler but more thoroughly satisfying, feel-good comic drama.
This happened with Kasal, Kasali, Kasalo and the succeeding year’s Sakal, Sakali, Saklolo, which stunned the public and industry folk to realize that motley crowds would show up and pay tickets to see earlier Metro Manila Film Festival champions. The new movie, titled My Househusband: Ikaw Na!, was made by the same team — writer-director Joey Reyes and stars Judy Ann Santos and Ryan Agoncillo. Ryan and Judy Ann did not make any movie for a while but they were never out of sight, thanks to TV shows, advertising deals, commercials and endorsements, and the long wait for the stork that fans joined, so that alone should take care of the revenues.
My Househusband: Ikaw Na! deals with the role reversal a husband and wife go through when the man is suddenly jobless and the woman has to work and be the breadwinner. Along with this new situation, thecouple has to deal with the attendant tensions, pressure, and conflicts, and make reality checks.
The movie was obviously conceived and written with the tried-and-tested Judy Ann-Ryan tandem in mind — a great real-life pair and the Philippines’ favorite showbiz couple. There popped the bright idea, though, that the brilliance and continued multi-media success of Eugene Domingo would add to the commercial potential of My Househusband. And it should. If Eugene were like the star-diva she played in the sleeper Ang Babae sa Septic Tank, she could have exerted some gentle pressure on the producers and co-stars to have the movie re-titled My Househusband and a Busybody and gotten her wish.
For as the third major character in the movie, hers is neither just a “decorative” role nor the comic relief (it’s already full of comic moments). Eugene’s character as the dumb-smart, loony, nosey neighbor is an important element in the relationship between the two major characters, the husband and wife, a catalyst to the waning strength of the marriage.
Thus, Ryan is Judy Ann’s househusband who does not have much face to show to the chatterboxes in the neighborhood. Being the “wife” is just too much for him. The male ego can only take so much. His parochial concern, however, does not jibe with the true personality of the modern man, like Ryan’s character should be. A fairly sophisticated man would not hide from the gossips of the village and take all the trouble to keep them from finding out that he wears the apron, does the laundry and takes care of the children. Still, the director-writer for the most part, depicts real situations, real people, and interesting plot turns, even makes sly ironic comment by playing the hit popularized by Village People Macho Man.
The first time English language users learned of the term “househusband” must be when John Lennon used it in an interview to refer to himself and rhapsodize about his marital state with wife Yoko Ono (or maybe a little earlier than that). Lennon described his marriage as blissful and all-satisfying — as house-bound father to child Sean and husband to Ono. This was the early ’70s, when gender roles were being examined and re-examined. Lennon said it loud, he’s proud to be a “househusband.” He learned to appreciate what housewives did and became closer to his son, he said. That’s cool.
In the Philippines, the man staying in the house and the woman working and being the breadwinner is not a rarity, at least nothing to be ashamed of or sneer at — considering the army of men who are left at home to tend to the children when the missus becomes an OFW. So it is a little strange that Ryan’s househusband overreacts or over-ventilates when neighbors get wind of his being a househusband. On the other hand, uncool his behavior may be, it at least makes for some funny movie situations.
The producers and director have assembled a wonderful cast to depict these situations, from the three principals to the supporting players. It’s a diverse ensemble: Boots Anson-Roa, Dante Rivero, Agot Isidro, Francine Prieto, Bobby Andrews, Lui Villaruz, Rocco Nacino, Miriam Quiambao, Derrick Monasterio and Johnny Revilla.
Big ladies Malou Crisologo and Cai Cortez make a perfect, funny mother-daughter couple who knock on Eugene’s door one evening to confront her about her geriatric lover-benefactor, creating more high jinks.
If most of the other busybodies in local movies have been depicted as jologs and squatter types, Tessie Villarama makes for a refreshing change as the intrusive, middle-class chismosa neighbor, one who would probably be active in parish church activities but considered malicious and evil if her portrayal were not so hilarious.
Still, the movie belongs to the three stars. Eugene plays the lover-mistress with the right mix of gusto and lunacy, surprising us with her character’s vast reservoir of caring and wisdom. She ends up being the couple’s true friend, and she not only mouths the movies craziest lines, she also voices out the movie’s most moving and sensible message.
Judy Ann and Ryan show that their characters’ love for each other is never really in question or danger, their marriage never really on the rocks in spite of some altercations, the growing small doubts, the challenges and difficulties they face, the financial woes, and other people’s meddling. As contractual partners in life, they truly care for each other, trying to resolve things rationally, snapping only when the going gets really, really rough, just like real people do. If the wife and househusband are very believable characters, it’s because the actors who play them are true and sensitive and credible, and they do not have to mug, play cute, go slapstick and play to the gallery to make it all worthwhile.


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