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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sharon Cuneta a shoo-in for best actress

SHARON Cuneta didn't make it to the premiere of her filmfest entry, "Mano Po 6: A Mother's Love.” Her husband, Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, and daughter KC showed up and read a statement in her behalf saying she regrets not being able to attend due to the sudden demise of her nanny since she was 5 years old, Loreta Benitez or Yaya Luring, who left two kids in her hometown in Pangasinan. Our condolences to Sharon and the family of the late Pambansang Yaya who even appeared with Sharon in two TV commercials.

Had Sharon been at the premiere night, she would have been proud of the movie. Those who enjoy having a good cry will love Regal Entertainment's drama entry, "Mano Po 6.” This is glossy soap opera done on a grand scale with a huge powerhouse cast, using lavish locations and sets, and with an absorbing story about an oppressed heroine who is tormented by her husband's Chinese family simply because she is half-Chinese and is considered a jinx who brings nothing but misfortune.

Scriptwriter Roy Iglesias and Director Joel Lamangan make sure that their lead character gets the full sympathy of viewers. Sharon Cuneta as Melinda Uy is verbally and physically abused by her in -laws and widowed early when her husband suddenly drops dead. Her house razed by a fire, she's forcibly separated from her four children, gets arrested by cops and sent to jail, seized by medical personnel to be confined in a mental hospital, gets afflicted with stage two Hodgkin's lymphoma, and even gets shot in the back while protecting her daughter from an assassin. For the series of humiliation and suffering alone that she is subjected to, Sharon is already a shoo-in for the best actress award. But in fairness to her, she invests her role with her own charm and spunk that you have no choice but to root for her until she emerges triumphant and gets the chance to get back at her oppressors.

The film starts with Melinda inaugurating her newest project called Sunshine City, a mammoth building-resort. In flashbacks, she narrates her origins. Her mom, Jin Feng (Boots Anson Roa), is a refugee from mainland China whose ship was attacked by pirates in 1957. Adopted by a Chinese couple in Manila, Jin Feng falls in love with a pure Pinoy in 1969 and Melinda is born. By 1981 (it would have been better if they didn't put the specific years as it all seems confused), the young Melinda herself (Glaiza de Castro) has fallen for a pure Chinese, Alfonso Uy (JC De Vera, and later, Christopher de Leon).

She's marginalized by Alfonso's family for being a mongrel and this is where her trials and tribulations begin. One nice thing about her character is that she refuses to be a doormat, she fights back. And when she gets millions in insurance compensation for the death of her own mom, she starts building her own business empire and her incredibly meteoric rise to wealth and fame eventually allows her to be on equal footing with her imperious in-laws.

Just like any melodrama where the good and the bad characters are as clear as black and white, the movie has the indispensable ingredient of a main villain as personified by Sharon's domineering sister-in-law, Zsa Zsa Padilla. The final confrontation between the two where Zsa Zsa gets the comeuppance that she truly deserves from Sharon's own hands elicited hearty applause from the audience when we saw the movie at its jampacked premiere night at SM Megamall. Zsa Zsa is very effective as the contravida who alienates Sharon's kids away from her, even if her portrayal sometimes borders on one-dimensional caricature.

If Sharon would be best actress, our choice for best supporting actress would be Heart Evangelista as her daughter Stephanie, who grew up thinking her mom neglected her totally. While Zsa Zsa gives an over-the-top performance, Heart wisely tones down her performance and excels in that scene where, in a good example of underplaying, she tells her mom dripping with sarcasm: "Hanggang ngayon, sinungaling ka pa rin." Not to be outdone is Ciara Sotto as the eldest daughter Carol, who feels their mom is just taking her for granted. Ciara has her own bright moment in her breakdown scene where she tells Sharon: "Ma, kailanganin mo na naman ako."

Also giving excellent support are Boots Anson Roa as Sharon's mom, Nina Jose as a vampish undercover agent, and the two guys who play the boyfriends of Heart and Ciara, Dennis Trillo and Ryan Eigenmann, both of whom turn out to be irredeemable assholes. Kris Aquino is unbilled in the film's poster but in the film's credit titles, she gets a solo credit for "special participation.” Actually, her role as Vivian, Sharon's sympathetic best friend, is a full length one, as she's seen from the start up to the end, unlike Christopher de Leon who gets first billing but actually has very few scenes as Sharon's ill-fated husband.

The ending shows the reunited family on a sentimental journey to China, the land where their forebears hail from, where Melinda puts up an orphanage in the name of her late mom. As a popcorn film entry to the filmfest about the sacrifices of a mother for her family, with magnificent production values and generally heartfelt performances from the entire cast, "Mano Po 6" has a good chance of bagging this year's Metro filmfest best picture award.

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