Los Angeles Times
Thanks to Dan for this information!

Friday, February 1, 2002
Lives Left to Marinate in 'American Adobo'

Filipino American friends gather around the table to await a 
heaping serving of what comes next.

By KEVIN THOMAS, Times Staff Writer

     The infectious "American Adobo" takes its title from the 
Philippines' national dish, which may be any meat or 
vegetable marinated in vinegar, soy sauce and garlic. As 
prepared by Filipino Americans, it acquires other flavors and 
ingredients, just as the immigrants may find their lives 
taking on new directions and meanings over their years in 
the U.S. while still feeling connected to their roots in their 
native land. It's a feeling that is at once a source of strength 
and conflict. 
     This sense of dual identity is also a source of humor for 
director Laurice Guillen and writer Vincent R. Nebrida. They 
never lose that sense of humor even as they embrace some 
wrenchingly painful moments in the lives of four friends who 
met as college classmates in the Philippines, now live in 
New York and still stay in close touch 20 years later. The 
arrival of one college pal, Lorna (Sol Ocoa), for a visit is the 
occasion for a celebration, and Tere (Cherry Pie Picache) 
has prepared one of her typically outstanding meals in her 
inviting Queens apartment, on a street lined with trees and 
gracious vintage townhouses. 
     Everyone in the group is doing reasonably well 
professionally, living in tasteful quarters, but of course 
appearances are deceiving. Tere is a beautiful woman, 
ample in the Kate Winslet manner, yet despite her warm, 
loving nature and unfailing kindness, she has yet to attract a 
man worthy of her. The brittle and glamorous Marissa (Dina 
Bonnevie) has a successful career yet is more vulnerable 
than she would like to be in regard to her live-in boyfriend, 
Sam (Randy Becker), a laid-back singer-composer and 
casual philanderer. 
     Mike (Christopher De Leon) is a New York correspondent 
for the Philippine Times unhappily married to Gigi (Susan 
Valdez-LeGoff), whose inheritance has allowed her to 
indulge in nouveau riche tastes and a lot of grand airs. Mike 
and Gigi have two children: a little boy, Mark (Jason 
Verdadero), and a girl, the pretty but sullen Candy (Martha 
Millan), in her rebellious teens. 
     Gerry (Ricky Davao) is a pleasant-looking ad agency 
veteran passed over for a promotion but not giving up. Gerry 
has unexpectedly and rapturously fallen in love but has 
trouble admitting to his friends that his lover, Chris, is a man 
(Wayne Maugans). Gerry's struggles in coming out, 
especially to his mother (Gloria Romero, a formidable 
veteran actress) back in the Philippines, are at once the 
source of outrageous humor and genuine pain. 
* * *
     This wide span of emotions is handled with a sure 
sense of control and compassion by Guillen. The shift in 
tone also applies to the plight of Raul (Paolo Montalban), 
who is Marissa's cousin, and who arrives at the party 
typically late and with his latest conquest in tow. Raul is 
devilishly handsome and proudly callow but may be 
heading for a fall. 
     Once set in motion by Tere's dinner party, "American 
Adobo" unfolds during the course of a year. This span of 
time provides a perspective that imbues the film with a 
sense of the eternal human comedy. "American Adobo" is 
an intimate, good-humored ethnic comedy like numerous 
others but cuts deeper than expected. 
     The filmmakers and their wonderful cast are unafraid of 
emotion, and they catch us up in the lives of their people to 
such an extent that they can get away with some honest 
tear-jerking as well as some very funny business, including 
an amusingly contrived way of wafting a bit of romance in 
the direction of the lovely and lovable Tere. Not the least of 
"American Adobo's" delicious ingredients is lots of heart. 
* * *
     MPAA-rated: R, for sexuality and language. Times 
guidelines: adult themes and situations.

     Exclusively at the Westside Pavilion Cinemas, 10800 W. 
Pico Blvd., West Los Angeles, (310) 475-0202; the 
Playhouse 7, 673 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, (626) 
844-6500; and the Park Place 10, Jamboree Road at 
Michelson Drive, Irvine, (949) 440-0880. 

Copyright 2002 Los Angeles Times