In the full trailer of Skylight Films and Star Cinema’s coming comedy film, “Tuhog,” that was recently shown to the show biz press, we see Eugene Domingo, playing a grouchy bus barker and driver ironically named Fiesta. She meets Renato (Jake Cuenca)—a new coworker and prospective lover—at a bus terminal.
She introduces herself: “Renato, ako si Fiesta.”
Renato, who fancies himself a comic, shoots back, “Parang ang saya, ah! Happy Fiesta?”
Fiesta gives him a stare that could make whimpering puppies out of grown men, and deadpans, “Hindi… Fiesta lang…. walang happy.”
From that scene alone, it becomes apparent that “Tuhog” is different from other funny movies that Eugene had done in the past, such as “Ang Babae sa Septic Tank” and the “Kimmy Dora” franchise, where she drew guffaws with her impeccable wit by being loud, at times even hysterical.
“Tuhog,” which also stars Enchong Dee, Empress Schuck and Leo Martinez, is an attempt at black comedy (one that treats serious issues humorously), Eugene explains during a press con. “Usually, natatawa ang tao kapag nakikita nila ako na nahuhulog sa hagdan, o na kambal ako,” she says. “‘Tuhog’ is different.”
Eugene tells the Inquirer: “You see a situation that seems serious or painful, but you find yourself laughing. And then you ask yourself, ‘Why?’”
Similar, in a way, to Alejandro González Iñárritu’s acclaimed 2000 movie “Amores Perros,” “Tuhog” interlinks three stories by way of a road accident. In “Tuhog,” the story is about the lives of Fiesta; Tonio (Martinez), a retired old man; andCaloy (Dee), a young man who wants to preserve his virginity for his girlfriend.
Eugene describes her character as “a simple woman with simple dreams, who opens her heart for a shot at true love.” “My name’s Fiesta, but each day for me is like All Souls’ Day,” she says, laughing.
Unlike usual slapstick films, “Tuhog” requires a bit of thinking to be fully appreciated. Thus, Eugene confesses, the production team had a hard time thinking about how to sell “Tuhog” to the local market.
She elaborates: “As it is, people get stressed at work, and thinking of ways to put food on the table three times a day. Bakit pa nga naman sila manonood ng pelikula na kailangan pa nilang mag-isip?”
But the 41-year-old actress remains hopeful that people will give this movie a chance. Eugene guarantees that audience members will get a grasp of the comedy once they allow themselves to commit and get involved. “I’d like to encourage [viewers] to trust us… and to trust that we can make movies that are just as good as those from Hollywood,” she says.
For Eugene, “Tuhog” is probably the most physically demanding movie she has done in her career. Shooting involved acting while trying to balance herself in a moving bus, and hours of standing under the searing heat. “The whole day you’re inside a speeding bus on Commonwealth Avenue. You get bruises and bumps. Nakakangawit; your whole body aches. But no complaints here because we all believed in the project,” she says.
“I was told that I would have to drive a bus. And I was like, ‘Ngayon na? Nakapag-practice ba tayo? Kapag namatay [tayo], paano gagawin?” she jests.
Her only consolation is being paired with actor Jake Cuenca, whom Eugene describes as “more than just a handsome hunk.” “When I learned that he was my partner, the first thought that came to mind was, ‘Am I doing a fantasy or sci-fi film?” she recalls.
“He’s a passionate actor, and he’s open to lots of possibilities,” Eugene adds.
And true enough, Jake was open to doing kissing scenes with Eugene, who says that she’s too old to be simply holding hands with her onscreen partner. “I am fearless!” she declares.
And just how daring were their kissing scenes? “Magugulat na lang kayo! Parang, ‘Ay, susmaryosep nangyayari na! Paulit-ulit kasi; maraming anggulo!” Eugene shrieks.
She renders everyone in stitches as she describes her kiss with Jake: “Parang prutas—makatas, bagong pitas!”
Directed by Veronica Velasco, “Tuhog” opens on July 17.