Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Toilet Bowl Realism

Serbis is an ambitious, slice-of-life, apparently improvisational drama in bad need of a script. In more or less real time, it follows the day-in-the-life events of a Filipino family struggling to keep afloat their sole means of support: a seedy porn theater. Director Brilliante Mendoza has an agreeably crumbling set to work with, lots of space for characters to roam and rooms for them to enter. It's a great backdrop for a family drama. Unfortunately, the fates assigned to the family members range from conventional to dull: there's a grandmother facing the prospect of her faithless husband coming home from jail, a daughter who tries to manage the financial affairs of a theater which is becoming dependent entirely on loans, another daughter who gets pregnant, thereby adding to the financial burden, and then there are all the "service" boys out back, offering blow jobs to patrons. Also, the toilet is backed up. Also, one guy has a nasty boil on his ass. All told, it's more squalor than story. With his pointless follow shots of people going up and down stairs and brutal close-ups of sex, ass boils, and sewage, Mendoza is truly the kind of director who wants you to feel you are there. Unfortunately, you'd rather be anywhere else.

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