Catch La Visa Loca

It was a toss-up between La Visa Loca and Bikini Open, two Pinoy films which have gotten pretty good reviews in the newspapers in the last few days. As time for movie-watching is quite limited, the film from the makers of Crying Ladies won in the end over the makers of Machete. Okay, that's not a fair comparison -- the makers of Bridal Shower would probably be more apt.

Crying Ladies by Unitel and Mark Meily was okay and entertaining, particularly the ending but I didn't think it was that great. La Visa Loca is by the same group and personally, I think La Visa Loca is a better film than Crying Ladies. I've been asking my friends to catch it as it is really quite sad when we keep complaining about the movies that Filipino producers make and yet, when a relatively better film shows, the theaters are not even half full.

What makes La Visa Loca an interesting movie? It is very Pinoy. It actually features things that you love and hate about the Filipino. Jess Huson, played well (surprise! surprise! -- at least for me) by Robin Padilla, is a driver/nursing aide who dreams about going abroad (to the U.S., specifically) to have a better life -- similar to probably half or even more than half of the Filipino working populace. He is denied a US visa at first and the film follows him as he takes care of his father, drives for Boss Nigel (a TV host of the show Planet Strange -- where they feature strange customs and events around the world) until he finally has the chance to fulfill his dream of going abroad. The movie is based on the Palanca-winning piece of Mark Meily entitled Penitencia Republic. As such, most of the featured practices in the movie focus on Holy Week.

The dialogue is funny. There are some hilarious scenes. Robin Padilla holds the movie together, with his very natural characterization of Jess. I also particularly like the use of the Pasyon soloists (all showbiz and theater heavyweights namely: Tessie Tomas, Noel Trinidad, Robert Seņa, Isay Alvarez, and Marissa Sanchez) who come in and out of some scenes -- singing their pasyon -- as Jess reflects or dwells on certain things and issues in the movie.

Does the movie paint a bad picture of Filipinos -- what with the numerous features on fakes, thieves, etc.? Boss Nigel, in one scene, actually frustratingly says: "Thieves. The Philippines is a country of thieves. I came to the Philippines to be screwed." or something to that effect. Well, yes and no, I suppose. There are really unscrupulous people wherever you go and the Philippines is not an exemption. Aside from that though, the movie also shows our love for family, the desire to give our loved ones a better life, our sense of humor, our faith and religiosity... etc., etc. It is really all just a matter of perspective. What you see is what you get. With the Philippines, beauty is really in the eye of the beholder and from where I'm typing away at this keyboard, there is no other place for me to live in permanently than here.

La Visa Loca is about everything you love and everything you hate about the Philippines. It may hurt a bit, when you laugh but try and catch it anyway. This is one of the better movies to have come from Pinoy producers. Now, I'm watching out for Pinoy Blonde. :-)

[By Angelica Viloria | Tuesday, May 31, 2005]

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