The female bonding comedy. It's about time we pay attention to this pesky genre of Pinoy cinema. About two or three of them get made a year. Pinay Pie, Bridal Shower, I Will Survive -- to name the more memorable ones -- seem cut from the same women's apparel cloth. Do they really make money? Are they even funny?
I will not attempt to answer these two questions, but will instead pose a third one: Are female bonding comedies really, at their core, gay?
In such a movie, the women, playing a tight-as-a-pussy group of friends, often with a token gay friend (who's often flamboyant), are female actors who are cast mainly for their funniness or their ability to go over-the-top. Meanwhile, the supporting men are cast mainly for their hunkiness.
In Apat Dapat, a fine stable of men all manage to, at one point or another, parade shirtless. Christian Vasquez plays the worthless, dependent stuntman-lover of Eugene Domingo (it echoes Nora Aunor and Philip Salvador's Bona) and he's slinking in his skivvies most of the time, including one extended sequence of him getting chased and splashed by boiling water right unto an EDSA flyover in just his red briefs. Deejay Durano, who always has a role in director Wenn Daramas' projects (you may raise your eyebrows), is Candy Pangilinan's thug husband, also dependent, albeit romantic. Kian Kazemi plays Rufa Mae Quinto's ignored suitor, who doesn't do much but gets topless anyway. My favorites are Chester Nolledo and Andrew Schimmer, who don't do much either as tattooed thug brothers, but my eyes are glued on their smooth bodies and faces everytime. Even Vince Saldana, playing Pokwang's teenage son, remaining fully clothed, appears to be a hunk in the making.
The plot is ostensibly about four women breadwinners who enlist as domestic helpers in Hong Kong as the ultimate act of love for their dependents and also, more unconventionally, for themselves. There's the old hide-the-dead-body situation, some old racial stereotypes, and some old special-effects action sequences milked supposedly for old laughs. Much of the punchlines (and indeed, plotlines) are sketched in the realm of non-logic. Most of it is unfunny, but I'm kept entertained by the film's idea of women's liberation as really rooted in economics -- that love is expressed by providing financially; self-worth is measured by men's (and children's) simple appreciation -- and that it applies to more of my gay friends in real life than my female ones. Do the women in these films behave the way they do to reflect real women, or are they stand-ins for the ultimate aspiration: to be gay? Or a certain idea of gay, as in loud, wild, sexual, cliquish, fools for love and pleasure, responsible, and underappreciated. Are homosexuals really just women inside, or are women really just gay inside? I'm not about to buy this notion just yet, but maybe someday, an enterprising student of media can explore the topic in depth in his thesis. Is it a gay fantasy to be surrounded by hot men everyday of our lives? I know the answer to that one.