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Girl, Boy, Bakla, Tomboy is kind of a tricky film. The title puts the idea of differing sexualities right up front, but the movie isn’t really defined by that idea. It’s instead a fairly dramatically grounded family drama about a son feeling abandoned by his father, augmented by a good deal of Wenn Deramas’ typical absurdist humor. The film runs a tad long for what it is, its emotional climax taking place in the middle of the movie. But solid production values and strong, committed performances keep the film chugging along.
Years ago, Pia (Maricel Soriano) gave birth to quadruplets. The siblings were split up when her husband Pete (Joey Marquez) left for the States, and his domineering mother brought a couple of kids along. The quadruplets grow up not knowing of the existence of the other pair. But the secret is revealed when Peter (Vice Ganda) needs a compatible liver to save him from Hepatitis. He and his sister Girlie (Vice Ganda), along with their dad, travel to Manila to find their siblings Mark and Paying (both played by Vice Ganda). But when they find them, it turns out that Mark has been harboring a lot of resentment, and as the only compatible donor, he sets out to make sure that his far more affluent siblings get a taste of what his life was like.
The film doesn’t really make a big deal out of the individual sexual orientations of each of the characters. There are maybe just a couple of scenes that really capitalize on the differences between them. But the film is really much more about family, and bonds that unite siblings even if they don’t really know each other. The film finds its emotional grounding in the character of Mark, who upon seeing his father and his US-grown siblings, releases his pent-up frustration with his much harsher upbringing. The film gets pretty silly, but it nails its more dramatic moments.
The problem is that the film doesn’t actually have a lot of plot to tell. The film largely finishes its main dramatic arc by the halfway point of the film. The rest of the film is mainly concerned with far less interesting subplots, none of which the film resolves to any satisfying degree. The film’s flair for the absurd keeps things from just falling apart, and the solid technical package keeps all of it watchable. But it does wear thin after a while. The film just runs out of things to talk about, and basically just starts repeating itself.
Vice Ganda does a pretty good job playing the four main roles. The comedian mostly sticks to the established schtick through most of the comedy, a lot of it drawn from elaborately composed insult humor. But he finds something real enough in the dramatic scenes. Also great in the film is Maricel Soriano. There might be no better actress to have in a comedy. All her humor is grounded in her character. The humanity she imbues in the scenes transcends the outright silliness of some of these conceits. The set up for this movie doesn’t make any at all, but Soriano really does sell the pain that her character went through.
Girl, Boy, Bakla, Tomboy is a really solid offering. Its last half gets a little tedious, and the ending wraps things up a little too neatly, but as a whole, the movie does have heart. It is oddly resonant when it starts exploring the rift that formed between these siblings, transcending the easy jokes of the premise to deliver something a little more human. I’m certain that the title has already turned a lot of people off, but the film is more than its title.