One can’t get away from comparison, especially when one recreates a classic. It’s inevitable. The recreated form becomes a subject in an analysis where a previous monument always lingers like an uninvited ghost – unwanting to leave, reclaiming its timeless glory.
That is why before watching Chris Martinez’ STATUS: IT’S COMPLICATED (2013), one who knows and who has been a fan of the original film from which it was based, I can’t help but wonder: why still do it if only to make another possible hit? Why not reproduce remastered copies of Ishmael Bernal’s SALAWAHAN (1979) instead, and make it known again to our 20th century Filipino viewers that there was a Temptation Island before Joey Gosiengfiao’s TEMPTATION ISLAND (1980).
You get my drift?
But that’s the thing with Martinez. Despite the possible consequences of comparison he still pushes through with such remakes, and proves beyond the revolution. His remake of Gosiengfiao’s TEMPTATION ISLAND (2011), proved itself more of a tribute to a Filipino camp classic, that we almost forgot, than a forgettable redux. His faithfulness to its original was superb, if not flawless. Its attack on an absurd storyline showed his dedication in presenting his own take on a legacy he adores.
So. yes. STATUS: IT’S COMPLICATED is yet another Martinez remake. It came from Ishmael Bernal’s response to an era when romantic dramas required a set of structured characters and characterizations, flowery – almost prosy thesaurus-like stichomythia (verbal battles), and big houses of the upper-upper class. SALAWAHAN was a hit in 1979. Even until now, Filipino gay men who had the chance to see it back then, or even those who had the opportunity to get access in DVDs or watched it CinemaOne, can’t help but celebrate the hilarity of this cerebral dark romantic comedy.
It follows the story of Jerry (Paolo Avelino) and Manny (Jake Cuenca), who have been best friends since God-knows-when, and their complicated relationships. At their late 20s, Jerry is still a virgin, while Manny already has had more than enough of his share of virgins. Rina (Maja Salvador), comes into the picture and catches Manny’s eye. Enter Sylvia (Solenn Heussaff), who pursues the virgin Jerry. Finally, middle-aged Marianne (Eugene Domingo) joins the party and chases Jerry, too.
STATUS: IT’S COMPLICATED may not have tried to be totally faithful to SALAWAHAN, but it attempted at the least. It delivers those same lines you have loved in the original and punches those silly jokes that once made an entire crowd laugh. But it has it’s own take on the 1979 masterpiece. SALAWAHAN was known to have been one of the first Filipino films who have intentionally and jokingly broken down the fourth wall, having the characters express their thoughts while talking to the camera. Martinez abused this device to its fullest. In a generation of Facebook and Twitter, where speaking one’s mind is the order of the day, this proves to be successful in the film.
But beyond the laughs, Martinez proves that Bernal’s cerebral take on romance is as universal as love and its relationships. When Jerry decides to move on, playful and carefree, yet alone, it manifests that such complexities can make one’s life normal and unexceptional. On the other hand, one can only play around until one gets tired and fall in love – another normality in the pattern of things.
In conclusion, what Martinez (and Bernal, for that matter) is saying, is that life is complicated until you get to know what you want, and that is where the normalcy starts.
As Marianne says in the film: “If you’re jealous, you’re in love. And when you’re in love, that is when you get old.”
Well that’s the thing with Martinez. Whenever he does a remake, it makes you want to celebrate the original. It’s not a bad thing. Though the remake may become a forgettable contribution, its existence establishes the primary source and further glorifies it. I am glad to have a director who reveres such masterpieces, and who reminds us, that despite our limitations in Philippine Cinema, we continue to create memorable classics. He knows the risks of criticisms and the threats of comparison. But he still pushes through, and I admire him for that.
For me, that is his legacy.
3.5 Stars out of 5.00