Movie review: 'Last Fool Show' shines with commercial creativity

Fred Hawson

Posted at Apr 11 2019 11:28 AM


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MANILA -- In "Last Fool Show," Mayessa Dominguez (Arci Munoz) is an award-winning director of indie films. Because of her success, she was invited by the giant mainstream movie company Galaxy Films to make a movie for them. This offer was Mayessa's dream come true career-wise, and also because she needed the money for the ongoing chemotherapy of her mother Sonya (Snooky Serna). 

However, Galaxy executive Tess Ranido (Bibeth Orteza) insisted that it had to be a rom-com because this was what the masses want to watch. Since this genre was not Mayessa's forte, in her desperation, she had to dig out her own previous failed romance with her ex-boyfriend phone app designer Paolo (JM de Guzman) who had abandoned her three years ago. Will Mayessa be able to complete her film and turn it into the box-office hit Galaxy was expecting?

Arci Munoz was beautiful and vivacious, and unexpectedly very hyper here. There were some scenes where she already came across as too overeager to be funny, but she was easy on the eyes and looked great in a bikini, so everything is forgiven. In any case, I guess those scenes were really supposed to be over-the-top as envisioned by the director, which could explain why she was kind of overdoing her line delivery. 

JM de Guzman is already known to be a great dramatic actor, but here was one of those rare films where he actually got to show off his skills in comedy. In "That Thing Called Tadhana," more of the comedy was care of Angelica Panganiban, while JM played the straight man. Here, JM was actually doing physical comedy which was quite funny to watch. His on and off American accent as he asked about Pinoy street slang like "walwal" or "wasak" and his emotional rendition of an Aegis classic song were also very funny scenes.

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True to the look of most Star Cinema films, the cinematography was clean and lush, with a bright color palette, especially when the scene moved to the newly refurbished resort island of Boracay, with its various activities, like mermaid swimming and cliff diving. Of course, also following the trend in most rom-coms, there was also a sentimental love song to accompany the heartbreak; in this case it was the Cliff Richard light rock classic, "Ocean Deep," as sung by the serene voice of Juris.

Even if I cannot explain exactly how the title related to the plot, this film is very interesting for me because it was about the local movie industry and the market forces that drive it nowadays. Indie directors have their own pet topics, but these were usually not commercially viable to make money. Mainstream film companies have the money to bankroll these young talented directors, but business sense tells them to stick to tried-and-true formulas of previous box office hits, however trite and predictable these are.

Hence, idealistic young writer/directors known to tackle social or political topics in their indie films were forced to direct silly comedies or cute romances in order to break into the mainstream scene. They are obliged to cast commercially successful love teams. They are forced to make script revisions which may totally change the film's original story or ending. Unfortunately, when they do this, their old fans accuse them of selling out to be commercial, which is unfair, since mainstream success, as welll as making a good living, may just be as important for these directors as their advocacies and passions. 

There was one key scene where Mayessa's idol, the acclaimed senior director Joana Lee (Gina Alajar), told her that she was also very passionate like Mayessa when she was starting out in her career. However, Ms. Lee advised Mayessa (and indirectly all the young directors out there) that films are made not for her, as the director, but it is for the audience. Therefore a balance had to be struck in the director's choice of projects. 

Maybe this was also the message of director Eduardo Roy, Jr. wanted tell his fans. I first knew Roy as a writer/director responsible for the raw and gritty style of indie film "Pamilya Ordinario" (2015), which was starkly different from the slick and glamorous style of "Last Fool Show." In place of the dirty streets of Quiapo in his former film, Roy now has the white sands of Boracay as his setting in his latest one. With this wide contrast in look and genre, Roy was able to show off his versatility with the film medium. 

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."