In 2008, narrative entities lifted themselves from the page to confront their creator. That confrontation happens in Ricky Lee’s debut novel, “Para Kay B”, a searing triumph in its reimagining of the chick-lit and its deft suffusion of the absurd with the realities of love and loss. It’s ripe material for a film, though no one, as of this writing, has dared to adapt it. The closest so far is Alpha Habon’s “Mga Mister Ni Rosario”, a film that pulsates with the same virtuosic energy and beams with a delightfully off-kilter aura it shares with Lee’s novel.
Habon, interestingly, is among the many filmmaking talents Lee’s screenwriting workshop has sprawled. Influences to Lee’s novel emerge, and Habon, similarly, without any sort of reluctance, stretches the reach of his story to absurdist extremes. Joross Gamboa’s Yogi Juan, an actor who comically appends himself to his work, might as well be a stand-in for Lukas, the writer-character center to Lee’s novel. Like “Para Kay B”, “Mga Mister” hides a few forks in the road quite as well, but perhaps the film’s most crucial, the trailer already gives away.
You see, the premise of “Mga Mister ni Rosario”, though it sounds like a 90’s subversion of the religious drama genre, imagines the inconvenience of marrying a method actor. The punchline sticks quite late—o.k., so you’re married to Christian Bale, he takes his work at home, and it so happens he’s shooting a sequel to “American Psycho”—but it sticks quite the same. It’s an obvious satire on method acting, and Gamboa, always the unruly mountebank of Philippine showbiz, is perfect as Yogi, supplying the wackiness the character demands while building an unflinching portrait of a fractured mind underneath.
But the film’s breakout star, should there be one, is Kate Alejandrino. She plays Sari, a superfan-turned-stage wife, a character who, in lesser hands, is likely to fall inane. Alejandro’s performance is joyous and endearing. As Sari, she brims with boundless energy that though there’s no reason why you shouldn’t, you don’t question her insistence to stay with her husband, even when things escalate from fun foreplay to legitimate physical danger. “For the sake of art,” she intones, like a prayer for a rosary—her namesake. “And because I’m a good wife.” She repeats it a handful of times, each with a shifting nuance more distinct than the one before.
The screenplay, written by Habon, seizes an infectious energy and does not, will not lose grip. Much of the film’s gags break the fourth wall, casting Sari as its wildly funny narrator with an endless stream of witticisms and alliterative punchlines. In between such hilarious moments and glorious absurdities, the film strikes a very poignant chord in its unpacking the idea of acting as an art and mere pretending. The film’s denouement, though it is doubtless its most thrilling part, feels ultimately maladroit, swerving the film into a needless—though admittedly expected—one-hundred-eighty turn that feels less like a resolution than a flimsy attempt at tying loose ends.
All of which is a roundabout way of saying that “Mga Mister ni Rosario” is as relentlessly imprinted to its absurdist nature as its protagonist is to his roles. Get the joke, be shifted by its message; it’s really up to whether you’ll be able to keep up.
Mga Mister ni Rosario
2018 / Comedy, Drama, Romance / PH
Direction: Alpha Habon
Screenplay: Alpha Habon
Cast: Joross Gamboa, Kate Alejandrino, Kim Molina
Bea is the perfect stage wife to his method actor husband until he gets the role of a lifetime and threatens to kill her “character”.