MIRASOL Movie Review
Thanks to Dan for this information!

March 3, 2002

Funny and Heartwarming
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January 22, 2002

Mike: Christopher De Leon
Marissa: Dina Bonnevie
Gerry: Ricky Davao
Tere: Cherrie Pie Picache
Raul: Paolo Montalban
Sam: Randy Becker
Gerry's Mom: Gloria Romero
Chris: Wayne Maugans
ABS-CBN Entertainment and UNITEL Pictures presents a 
film directed by Laurice Guillen. Written by Vincent R. 
Nebrida. Rated R (for sexuality and language).

American Adobo is a rare gem among Filipino films. It is a 
funny and heartwarming story about Filipino-Americans 
trying to weather the trials of life's relationships and how the 
bonds of family and friendship help them make it through. 
What makes it entertaining is its humor and charm, but what 
makes it unique is its warmth, intelligence, and honesty. It is 
to Filipinos what Soul Food is to African-Americans.
The film concentrates on the lives of 5 individuals. Mike 
(Christopher De Leon - Madrasta) is family man whose love 
has fallen out of his marriage and whose happiness has 
seeped out of his family life. Marissa (Dina Bonnevie - 
Tatarin) is upper class working woman who despite her 
intelligence, wealth, and good looks, seems to be in love 
with the wrong type of guys. Gerry (Ricky Davao - 
Saranggola) is an aspiring artist, who is looking for a way to 
let his traditional mother know that he is gay. Raul (Paolo 
Montalban - Mortal Kombat: The Series) is a suave playboy, 
with little regard for the feelings of his lovers. And Tere 
(Cherrie Pie Picache - Anak) is the embodiment of a loving, 
understanding, and kind woman, desperately hoping not to 
become an old-maid despite her admirable qualities.
Never before have I seen a Filipino film with such an 
interesting mix of comedy and melodrama. For a while I was 
having trouble believing I was watching local product. The 
characters are so well-drawn, the writing so crisp and 
believable, and the events so well-mingled that despite 
some of the film's weaknesses, it plays much better than it 
actually is. By the end, I didn't care whether the movie's 
closing scenes seemed to play out too neatly. It is such a 
skillful and caring exercise that we are happy for each 
character's resolution.

When it comes to humor, American Adobo delivers an 
attractive package, from situational comedy to surprising wit. 
I didn't think that you could effectively mingle Filipino and 
Western comedy in a film, but the movie pulls it off. I was 
pleasantly surprised that I was enjoying every bit of fun the 
film was offering me. I relished in Marissa and Tere's verbal 
sparring, and snickered at the ongoing sexual escapades in 
the upper rooms of Mike's house. 

Raul's playful abandonment of his relationships with his 
lovers, although cruel, is made amusing by his choice of 
words. The film's funniest moments occur when Gerry finds 
out he has accidentally switched letters intended for his 
lover Chris (Wayne Maugans) and his mom. His reactions 
are absolutely priceless, and his near-miss solution is 

The real power of American Adobo however lies in its 
intimate moments, in conversations, musings, and 
emotional confrontations. Most Filipino dramas have the 
habit of becoming entirely unrealistic. They usually become 
preachy, unreasonably mushy, unnecessarily overacted, or 
just plain screamfests. Those conversations cease to exist 
and turn into speech competitions of astounding 
unoriginality and become annoyingly cornball. It is so 
refreshing to see sharp conversation and clever dialogue 
among American Adobo's pivotal characters.

Consider Mike's letter to his wife as he decides to leave his 
family: "I have become tired of waiting for you to change, and 
now knowing that you will not." Notice how Tere confronts 
Marissa, caring for her well-being due to latter's foolish taste 
in men. The most powerful moments occur between Gerry 
and Chris, and Gerry with his mother. The film deals with 
"coming out of the closet" (revealing one's homosexuality for 
those of you who don't understand) more maturely than any 
other film I have seen. And the words spoken among these 
three characters in their times together are some of the 
most tender and touching expressions I've ever felt. Vincent 
Nebrida's script is uncommonly good.

The effectiveness of American Adobo's movements can be 
credited to how well cast its actors are. Each player's screen 
persona has already been established, hence it becomes 
easy for us to identify the characters. Christopher De Leon 
has always been excellent at playing well-meaning fathers. 
It is not hard for us to believe that Dina Bonnevie could be a 
sexy, intelligent, and cynical working class professional. I 
was amazed to find Paolo Montalban in this picture (he was 
named one of People Magazine's 50 most beautiful people 
in 1998). Despite playing what would normally be 
considered a repulsive personality, his charm just keeps on 
shining through (Ladies, I dare you not to melt at his smile). 
His image is perfect for his role, as is his performance. 
Gloria Romero as always is just wonderful, being able to 
convey and old woman's hope and distress for her only son, 
and the future of her family. They are the film's personality 

The one truly remarkable performance in American Adobo 
belongs to Ricky Davao, who is brilliant. I am so sick of 
non-gay actors who portray gay men as being 
super-effeminate. They obviously have no clue as to what 
are the mannerisms needed to play such a role, thus 
stereotyping homosexuals. Mr. Davao is totally convincing 
not just as being a gay man, but as a loving person under 
stressful circumstances. The manner in which he shows 
his anguish in the fear his mother discovering his sexuality, 
and the grief he conveys as his lover is dying. His sweet 
words on the phone and his warm caressing of Chris' hand. 
His is the most challenging role, and he is more than up to 
it. His subtle heartfelt performance cannot be ignored.

Laurice Guillen seems to be fascinated with the interlocked 
relationships of close-knit groups. In her previous work 
Tanging Yaman she focused on family ties, on what strains 
and strengthens them. This time, she focuses more on 
friendship of the Filipino kind, on how empowering it can be 
in healing relationships and in compensating personal 
shortcomings. It's true that the "barkada" type of mentality is 
a two-edge sword. It's nice to see a director showing how 
the beneficial edge can make us better people. She has 
shown us once again why she is one of the great Philippine 
directors. She's cooked up a savory dish filled with unlikely 
ingredients, with great skill and lots of heart.

I loved what I found in American Adobo. It confronts its 
characters with worthwhile questions for them to enrich their 
lives. In its story, you'll find three intimate meals among the 
5 main players. The first shows their troubles, the second 
displays how they intend to deal with them, and the last 
reveals their resolutions. So what if the ending seems too 
good to be true? These people faced their worries and dealt 
with them. They deserve a happy ending. 
My rating for this movie is  **** (four stars)
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