Friday, April 28, 2017

Toto (John Paul Su, Metro Manila Film Festival New Wave 2015)


The dark comedy film Toto tackles two major preoccupations of middle-class Filipinos. The first one is love of movies and celebrities. Toto (Sid Lucero) is a hotel room service attendant who idolizes Tom Cruise. He dons sunglasses although not the pricey Ray-Ban Wayfarer ones. He engages in a side job peddling bootleg DVD copies of movies. Alas, his knowledge of movies is limited to the Hollywood blockbusters and star-studded films he sees from these pirated DVDs. He fails to identify the movie source of the dialogue, 'We're no longer in Kansas' or the dog character Toto.

The second and major topic of the film is Filipinos' obsession and lingering dream to work abroad, specifically the United States of America (US). Countless Filipinos still cling to the notion of earning big bucks in the US. Toto concocts different ways of getting the elusive visa. For every denied visa application, he waits for months before employing his latest ploy.

A hysterically funny scene shows Toto raising hackles over the people hired to serve as his family for a visa application appearance. He rues the pedestrian, tacky looks of his alleged mother and sister. Worse he even compares them to prostitutes from Ermita. His remark about prostitutes came back to haunt him later in the film as he gets outed as a prostitute catering to gays.

Toto may be an impostor but he has huge compassion for his cancer-stricken mother (Bibeth Orteza). He buys a wig for his bald-headed mother. Toto's big heart and gritty determination causes the merciful universe to bring him one last hope of nabbing a US visa.

The film Toto assembles a fine cast of actors. Even the foreign actors gave notable performances. Sid Lucero is a versatile actor able to handle dramatic and comedic roles. He channels his father, Mark Gil, in the bedroom scene showing him in briefs. Mara Lopez continues to sizzle in every role she dabbles in. Rafael Roco Jr. does a first in this film with his head full of long hair. The novelty is not merely being long haired of Roco but having a fuller, hairier head than his lady partner (Bibeth Orteza). Liza Dino portrays a chameleon-like femme fatale giving Toto a dose of his own medicine.

There are several wonderful detours from the main topic. They add dramatic contrast to the mostly comedic visa forays of Toto. The bromance twist is a major surprise. It answers my major lingering question at that point of the movie: Why is someone getting out of his way to help Toto get his visa?

Another emotional side trip is Toto's visit to his mother. I can't recall any of her lines but I still vividly remember her receding hairline. Bibeth Orteza evokes sympathy as a bald-headed cancer victim.

Enough with sad memories. Let's go out with a laugh.

Here's a joke for Toto and other avid Filipino moviegoers:

Q: What Tom Cruise movie best describes Roco?
A: Top Gun. (Top Gone).


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