New York Times
Thanks to Dan for this information!

January 25, 2002


A Stew With a Few Too Many Ingredients


The title of the romantic comedy "American Adobo" refers to 
a popular Filipino dish whose ingredients include pork, 
vinegar, garlic and fish sauce and whose ritual preparation 
regularly brings together five Filipino-American friends 
around a dinner table in Queens. The dish becomes an 
overwrought metaphor for group dynamics and cultural 
assimilation. And as the film loses its grip on its multiple 
stories, the title begins to suggest an overheated stew 
bubbling out of its pot. By the end of the film, the intersecting 
dramas and histrionic performances have spilled all over 
the floor, so to speak.

The film, directed by Laurice Guillen from a screenplay by 
Vincent R. Nebrida, forces together a familiar gallery of 
types. Tere (Cherry Pie Picache), the group's gloomy, 
unofficial den mother, is an attractive, virginal 40-something 
woman whose low self-esteem prevents her from mounting 
a vigorous campaign to find Mr. Right. By contrast her 
beautiful, younger best friend, Marissa (Dina Bonnevie), is 
sexually avid but equally miserable because of her 
weakness for shallow, unfaithful glamour boys.

Marissa's scummy boyfriend, Sam (Randy Becker), is one of 
the movie's two cheating Romeos. The other is Marissa's 
cousin Raul (Paolo Montalban), a preening yuppie lothario, 
whose promiscuity ends with a telephone call from a former 
conquest informing him she is H.I.V. positive.

Gerry (Ricky Davao), the fourth member of the group, is a 
closeted gay advertising copywriter whose lover, Chris 
(Wayne Maugans), is dying of AIDS. Gerry's mother (Gloria 
Romero), who lives in Manila, abhors homosexuality and 
mercilessly nags him to produce grandchildren. When 
Chris accidentally mails her a letter containing revealing 
photos of himself and Gerry, Gerry is so upset he jumps on 
the first plane to the Philippines to intercept it.

Finally, there is Gerry's best friend, Mike (Christopher De 
Leon), a lawyer and former political activist unhappily 
married to Gigi (Susan Valdez-LeGoff), with whom he has 
two children. While the snobbish Gigi fritters away the days 
playing mah-jongg, Mike fantasizes chucking his family and 
returning to the Philippines.

When not wallowing in its characters' frustrations, the movie 
is busy contriving false, sitcom-worthy solutions to their 
problems. The most shameless involves Tere and a 
neighborhood firefighter. "American Adobo" certainly doesn't 
lack emotional energy, but it has two or three more plots 
than it can handle and plays like a compressed, strident 
soap opera.

"American Adobo" is rated R (Under 17 requires 
accompanying parent or adult guardian). It has sexual 
situations, nudity and strong language. 

Directed by Laurice Guillen. R, 99 minutes