Recently seen movie: Etiquette for Mistresses
I was in my early twenties when Julie Yap-Daza’s book, which was the source material of this movie, came out with a splash. It was, of course, controversial as it tackled a controversial topic. In particular, its form (a how-to manual of sorts) provided an unflinching look at something that’s been happening for a while, largely frowned upon by society but tacitly accepted by many. I remember I had two gripes about the book. One, it was too exclusive, focusing on the rich and upper-middle class mistresses. The book will have you believe that there are no poor mistresses in the Philippines. Two, for all the books instructions on how a mistress can make the most of her life, the book manages to extol the virtue of being a married woman.
I went to the movie with this in mind, and during the first half, I thought it would go in a separate direction, mostly because of the characters played with aplomb by Iza Calzado and Cheena Crab, who seemed perfectly happy with their lives. A significant part of the movie played like a tribute to consumerism and avarice, albeit cleverly disguised as the education of Kim Chiu’s character on how it is to be a rich man’s mistress. Actually I was happy with the pace of the movie–the “rules’ interspersed with the characters’ stories until I was jolted by a spectacularly melodramatic situation that involved most of the characters.
Of course, a Star Cinema production won’t be complete without one such sequence. It almost turned the film into a suspense thriller. And of course, it won’t be a Star Cinema movie without the epilogue, one that shows how each of the character reached her own version of a ‘happy ending’, which for some is marital bliss. Funny, the most assertive character ended up alone in a foreign country. What does it say to young girls about being assertive?
Over-all, consistently good performances from the cast, just don’t pay too much attention to Kris Aquino, who can only act in one lethargic note. The men were more like living props, except for Tirso Cruz. Cheena Crab was hilarious, so was Kim Chiu (although unintentionally, in my opinion). Great storytelling, even if succumbed to melodrama towards the end.
One more thing: this movie is so hetero I began to wonder if Chito Rono had become a born again Christian. I mean, you can make me believe that there are no poor mistresses in the Philippines but a mistress with no gay friend? No way! And no, that designer-to-the-mistresses doesn’t count.