Storytelling in ‘The Mistress’ snarled up to achieve desired plot twistsBy Nestor Torre
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Olive Lamasan’s “The Mistress” is turning out to be the top mainstream film hit of 2012 to date. What accounts for its phenomenal success? There’s nothing like watching the movie to find out.
The movie makes for a disappointing first impression, because it starts off with the usual rom-com device of its two young-adult leads literally bumping into each other in a bookstore.
Many other local movies have resorted to this ploy, perhaps to suggest that the former strangers are “fated” to fall in love with one another. Still, it’s resorted to so often that it’s become a cringe-worthy cliché.
But, it’s really just an irritating detail, and we’re soon gratified to see that the movie is bent on tackling more significant stuff—nothing less than dissecting the hidden agendas of the four people who figure in its “romantic quadrangle” plot: the mistress, her mature lover, his aggrieved wife and the young man who passionately loves her.
To make the conflict more combustible, he turns out to be her lover’s wife’s son! Uh-oh, fasten your seatbelts, folks!
What distinguishes this production from other romantic dramas is its seriousness of purpose: Aside from touching all the “commercial” bases, it goes further and gets into its contentious characters’ psyches, to investigate and shed insightful light on the power games played by people who are supposed to be ardently in love with each other.
The correlation between love and power is most clearly underscored by the mistress’ mature lover (Ronaldo Valdez), who has used his wealth to make his mistress (Bea Alonzo) beholden to him.
Ironically, he himself was made rich and powerful by his wife’s (Hilda Koronel) family’s money.
Most ironically of all, his mistress’ other (young) lover (John Lloyd Cruz) is made to feel impotent by the old man’s power, so when he fights for Bea’s love, he’s actually challenging Ronaldo’s character where he’s most exposed and vulnerable!
Lamasan’s ability to thematically thicken the movie’s plot and conflict enables viewers to relate to the production on a level both higher and deeper than usual.
On the debit side, however, the storytelling sometimes gets itself all snarled up to achieve some “necessary” plot twists, like Bea having to take a long trip to the province just to deliver a new barong
Tagalog for a fastidious customer. John Lloyd offers to drive her all the way there, and they are finally forced to confront
the convoluted issues they’ve been avoiding!
Another scene that turns out to be dismayingly implausible is set in a posh restaurant, where all four principal characters “accidentally” or “coincidentally” cross paths, and all melodramatic hell breaks loose.
Yes, these scenes are “needed,” but the essence of art is the ability to make structural and dramatic “requirements” come off as natural, instead of forced.
Despite these caveats, “The Mistress” is a successful acting adventure for its mature leads, Ronaldo and Hilda. Bea also scores significant points in a number of scenes, but John Lloyd appears to be hampered by the less than clear-cut writing of his character, and thus turns in a fuzzier portrayal. Better scripting support next time, please!
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