JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Serbis (Director: Brilliante Mendoza) - October 3, 2008
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Serbis

4 4
94 min.

Reviewed at the 2008 Vancouver International Film Festival
Sex in the Cinema

A “family” business that caters to the carnal desires of the poor features all manner of porn on the big screen while the patrons either negotiate sex-for-hire (serbis = service, rent boy style) in the theatre, hidden-away rooms or take matters (or whomever is conveniently willing) into their own hands and hump away in concert with the larger-than-life unknowns shown daily in the provincial town of Angeles.

Nanay Flor (Gina Pareño delivers another strong depiction of despair—cross-reference below) is intent on keeping this last (of three) public peep shows operating. Incredibly, the theatre really is called Family. Her husband has been caught cheating bigamously so is being sued for support. As the film opens, the judge’s verdict is imminent. In an ironic twist, son Jerome (Dan Alvaro) opts to testify on behalf of the wayward role model. His reasoning is simple—a guilty verdict would legally prove the aging fornicator’s responsibility for his concubine and their brood, seriously diminishing the estate returns to his own flesh and blood when the lecher finally leaves the planet. What’s the ultimate prize? A mother’s revenge or cash for the desperate family?

That is just one of the societal questions posed by director Brilliante Mendoza who paints a stark, boldly graphic (seeing what appears to be a real blow job in the seats brings more truth to the gritty production than the more common voyeuristic fakery) portrait of sensual/sexual/economic survival. The possibility of incest also features in the murky relationships (Ronald—Kristoffer King and Nayda—Jaclyn Jose) when graffiti on the walls is brought to light.

Alan (Coco Martin adds another heroic role to his growing and impressive résumé—cross-reference below) has a metaphorical boil on his buff ass which he finally bursts, cleansing that pus-filled infection if not the circumstance of his unwanted impregnation of Merly (Mercedes Cabral). Mamma Flor chides the “unsafe” couple for creating another mouth to feed—how will she find the money for more food? Seconds later, her motherly instinct kicks in: “Come back Sunday and we’ll talk about the wedding.”

One charming poofter from the covey of local queers will also soon be Queen Dad as manipulative biology once again trumps “normal” sexual function. Screenwriters Armando Lao and Boots Agbayani Pastor have a little something for all persuasions.

By journey’s end, no one’s totally satisfied but, somehow, the show will go thanks to the insatiable desires of the young and disenfranchised who lustily place their hormones and various body parts into the service of others when the lights go down. JWR

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