There is a difference between indie and mainstream movies. Most indie films find themselves struggling to cater to the taste of mainstream audiences which make up basically 80 percent of moviegoers. After a week of Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino, Jun Lana’s The Panti Sisters, a reunion of sorts for his Die Beautiful collaborators was the only Pinoy movie left to battle it out with foreign movies in cinemas and for good reason. The film manages to straddle the fine line between indie and mainstream, serving all types of audiences what they want with this entertaining yet thought provoking film about family and LGBT.
Synopsis: Ultra conservative millionaire Don Emilio Panti (John Arcilla) has three sons, all of whom have come out as gay. He calls back his heirs to offer them their inheritance in exchange of providing him with a successor to the Panti family name. The three siblings try to beat each other to the punch to inherit P300 million.
While the film presents all three Panti siblings as flamboyant gays, there is something special about how The Panti Sisters builds the characters to make them more than comic relief. Sure, there were a lot of crass humor involved and green jokes sewn into the script to make things interesting but from the beginning, the film manages to make the characters connect with the audience, not as stereotypes, not as fictitious cardboard cutouts, but as people who are struggling to gain acceptance and love.
Perhaps this is owing to the strong cast of the film that sisters Gabriel (Paolo Ballesteros), Daniel (Martin del Rosario) and Samuel (Christian Bables) come across as rootable and relateable characters. Perhaps it was because of the great script which had plenty of depth and plenty of humor. Perhaps it was because this team gels together so well that everything just falls into place.
I liked that the film managed to sustain its momentum for the first 3/4 of the movie until the ultimate bonding moment of the three siblings. I liked how Paolo played the most mature among the three siblings and gave his co-stars their time to shine. My only issue is that while Paolo plays the gay role so well, he has been bombarded with all gay roles for the past three years or so. If he plans to take acting seriously, he may want to come out of his comfort zone and try a different role.
I’ve always known that Martin del Rosario was a fine actor but I was pleasantly surprised that he looked so pretty as a girl. Martin managed to convey his emotions with simple gestures to deliver the sincerity in his portrayal. Daniel had a lot of highlight moments because of the way he played her. My favorite though, was Christian Bables’ Samuel. This young man has acting chops way beyond his years. He knows how to draw deep into his own emotions to give life to his scenes. I felt that among the three, I connected bettwe with Samuel because he felt so real.
Still, while the focus was on the three siblings, John Arcilla stole the show when he delivered his dialogue towards the end. This guy can deliver on any role and made audiences relate to him as a parent although he seemed cold and callous from the beginning. The supporting cast also helped build a complete picture to flesh out the personalities of the Panti Sisters — the legal wife (Carmi Martin) and the other woman (Rosanna Roces), Gabbi’s best friend Kat (Roxanne Barcelo), Samuel’s first love Chiqui (Via Antonio), and Daniel’s boyfriend Zernan (Joross Gamboa).
I liked the beginning parts of movie because the script manages to incorporate the postions of the LGBT community with the dialogue in a subtle manner. I was not a big fan of the extended speeches on how the LGBT community needed to be seen or how the church viewed LGBT. I felt that the script was doing well in the beginning by showing and not telling audiences about the plight of the community as it felt more human and personal. Perhaps I’m just not a fan of lectures which some films can’t resist but include in the overall.
The Panti Sisters was a great watch because it was funny yet sensitive. No matter how much make up and cloth were used to transform these sisters, they felt real. Ultimately, it managed to convey strong messages of family and finding love, acceptance and being yourself.