‘Bingoleras’: Comedy as chaos

Francis Joseph Cruz
Ron Bryant film has restraint, good taste, but scant pleasures and scanter insights

 'FEMME' PART. Eula Valdez does a take in 'Bingoleras.' Image from the film's Facebook

MANILA, Philippines – Ron Bryant’s “Bingoleras” – a competing entry in the ongoing CineFilipino Film Festival – is a comedy of scant pleasures and even scanter insights. Sure, the jokes are plenty. However, for a film that prefers to abandon reason and logic for an overflowing stream of supposedly funny skits and sketches, it lacks any real wit. Early Almodovar is an obvious inspiration as several of Bryant’s gags rely on sexual antics, as observed from Catholic eyes. He indulges in the sudden raunchy relationship of Mimi (Charee Pineda), dressed in a nun’s habit, and Dodong (Junjun Quintana), the helper of the parish church, milking the irreverent repercussions of their very unique affair for everything its worth. Also targeted for laughs is the broken marriage of Jean (Eula Valdez), a lesbian socialite, and Wally (Art Acuña), a gay lawyer, with their romps with their respective same-sex partners becoming the rare highlights of Bryant’s attempt at being both funny and sensual.

Bryant confuses. His material is clearly absurd, with characters ending up in situations with just a sliver of logical explanation. However, there is restraint in the presentation. There is an overabundance of good taste, from how the entire film is shot and lighted, the decisions in music, to the obvious inability to push the envelope in depicting sexual urges. A dull failed comedy is bearable. At most, it is just a waste of time. However, a failed comedy borne out of the lack of any sensitivity is unforgivable. It purports to be progressive with its misguided stabs at norms and conventions. Sadly, absent a believable perspective or intent, the film overindulges in its rabid caricatures, making it seem that the entire point of its blunt slapstick is shallow hilarity.

Token motivations

Bryant populates “Bingoleras” with women of token motivations. Dang (Max Eigenmann), the mastermind of the sham bingo games, simply wants to be reunited with her daughter in the United States, forcing her to earn money through unscrupulous means. Mimi, her assistant whose past as a novitiate makes her a semi-effective fake nun, dreams of love and a more comfortable future. Jean is stuck in a loveless marriage, satisfied only by Rona (Liza Dino), a cop. Bonay (Hazel Orencio) and Pinang (Mercedes Cabral) are single mothers who have been toughened by their sorry lots in life. They also loathe each other.

Instead of granting the characters with some semblance of dignity or humanity, Bryant places them in unrealistic situations, turning them into mere butts of his haphazard jokes. There is simply no room for sensitivity, no space for characterization. In the end, the characters are only memorable because of the misfortunate stereotype they represent or because of the outrageous sketch they were part of. What little connection between the characters and the rest of humanity is brought by the actresses who play them with an excitement that is woefully missing from the rest of the picture.

It is really unfortunate. The very fact that “Bingoleras” tackles the sudden connections between diversely motivated women gives it an opportunity to be more scathing or informative in its exploration of various women’s issues. In the hands of Bryant, everything seems false, everything seems to be a convenient attempt to portray women as strong and independent, but still within the perspective of a dominant male. Thus, the film’s supposedly progressive commentaries are all elementary, lacking any refreshing argument in feminist discourse. At this point, what “Bingoleras” offers are just the 6 odd women to laugh at, and nothing else. – Rappler.com

Here’s the trailer of ‘Bingoleras’ from TV5 Philippines’ YouTube:


Francis Joseph Cruz is a film critic and a lawyer. You can follow him at oggsmoggs.blogspot.com.