Are the younger generation still familiar with the meaning behind the title? In this age of reserved seating and fire safety regulations, “standing room only” is a moviehouse term that’s barely used anymore. The double meaning is that, in run-down theaters that also function as prostitution dens, there’s a lot of standing and walking going on inside. Like the title, the movie SRO feels moldy and out-of-touch. Can’t get enough of the sight of an experienced serviceboy throwing up after giving head? That’s just one of the film's many standard “insights” about the miserable lives of sex peddlers.
The acronym also stands for the initials of the three main hustlers (Sonny, Roldan, and Oscar), played by Rain Javier, Kristoffer King, and Charles Delgado, and the movie supposedly depicts the struggle for dominance among them – the passing of the baton, so to speak, of who is the hottest callboy inside. Sounds like a cool setup for some micro politics, or at least some backstabbing, bitching, or one-upmanship – but alas, the movie doesn’t know what to do with it. The boys don't really try to outsex each other. Like so many Filipino films lately, the conflict remains a concept, not really played out for the thrills they promise. For a film about a power struggle, it’s baffling why none of the people actually interact. They all prefer talking by themselves, like the blind woman (Ana Capri) who speaks but is not heard. Sonny, the first king of the territory, likes talking to the movie screen. Oscar, as the young upstart, narrates in dry voice-over. In effect, everyone is either a pontificator, or, like Paolo Rivero as a mysterious habitue, a spectre. Where’s the fun in that?
Serbis, also set in a dirty picture house, was over-semioticized junk, but at least it captured the existential chaos of its environment. SRO gives us ghosts in place of people, and blank space instead of place. But at least the horny kid stripping in front of the mirror is a guy this time.