Festivals, Reviews

Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino 2019: The Farce and Spectacle of ‘The Panti Sisters’

There is no offer more convincing than 300 million pesos. Queer siblings Gabbi (Paolo Ballesteros), Dane (Martin del Rosario), and Samuel (Christian Bables) glam their way through siring a child to get their inheritance in The Panti Sisters.

The Panti Sisters falls under the mainstream comedy flicks filled with cookie cutter banters, overexaggerated jokes, and over-the-top physical farce to generate laughs from the audience. I guess this can be considered the film’s selling point to the masses: it’s not easy to make people watch a film about the issues the LGBT+ community are facing, but it’s more plausible make them watch a comedy about three gay brothers racing to conceive a child.

Ballesteros knows what he’s doing, and it shows. However, I don’t think this is his strongest performance. Maybe because in this one, his character was written as less likeable and less fleshed out than his breakout role as Tricia in Die Beautiful. Moreover, my main gripe with this film is its hazy and insipid writing. Nevertheless, he was able to make do of the material he has and still executed it with satisfactory. Del Rosario is consistent with his sweet, cute, and adorable character, but Bables was the standout. His storyline with Chiqui (Via Antonio) was interesting and endearing at the same time. The dynamic between the female friends and the titular characters is one of the best things in the film. John Arcilla (Don Emilio), no matter how horrible his character is, is able to show his acting prowess especially towards the end of the film.

The message that it wants to get across is the most important aspect of this whole spectacle. I was actually shocked as to how subtle some issues were tackled, such as stereotypes, coming out, homophobia, abortion, violence, and the politics of marriage. I applaud the intention to get these messages across the cinematic mainstream.  No matter how convoluted, corny, and badly edited the film ended up being, the concretized message stands strong. 

Here’s the thing about dramedies. There are a lot of ways to get the balance wrong. Sometimes, the scenes are funny and for a split second it cuts to an emotional one. There is no room to breathe. The irregularity of the pacing and trajectory didn’t deliver the emotion they want the audience to feel. Also, some events happen out of nowhere and then immediately cuts to another one that it takes you out of the film.

I personally think our country is not yet ready for films like Die Beautiful or Ang Mga Batang Poz. There is still the lingering stench of bigotry no matter how hard we try to supplement change and open-minded thinking. But this film is a start. The more we try to normalize queerness in different platforms of media, hope for a more accepting community continues to ignite. 

This film is not perfect. The editing, pacing, and writing falls short. The resolution between the brothers and their father felt too convenient. But I believe you should watch this movie for its braveness to exhibit queer rationality. Beneath each laugh-inducing dialogue is an important message.

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