October 18, 2016
Without much mainstream fanfare, the 4th QCinema International Film Festival opened last October 13 and will run up to October 22 in four major malls in Quezon City. These are: Robinsons Movieworld Galleria, U.P. Town Center, Gateway Cineplex and TriNoma Mall Cinemas. I thought I would never get a chance to watch any of the local indie feature films in competition, but lucky enough I was able to catch some.
"Best. Partee. Ever" is about Miguel Giancarlo E. Ledesma III or Mikey for short, a young rich gay dude who liked to party, preferably with Ecstasy. One day in May 2012, he was celebrating his birthday with friends in a upscale club. Suddenly, cops raided the place and Mikey was arrested in a drug buy-bust operation. Mikey was thrown into prison while his case dragged on in court to the present year. This film recounts Mikey's often harrowing, sometimes hilarious experiences behind bars.
JC de Vera went way beyond his comfort zone playing a gay character in this film. This role required him not only to wear makeup and sashay in some scenes, but also to figure in intimate scenes with another man. He was quite bold here, acting more surely and more confidently than how he seemed in the TV drama shows I see him in. He clearly poured his all into this performance, no holds barred. We can empathize with his fears, confusion, and efforts to overcome the adversity of his current state.
To their credit, de Vera and Jordan Herrera (as Mikey's prison "husband" Pikit) actually portrayed their attraction to each other very well, with convincing chemistry. It could have helped if we saw how the relationship between them developed into something deeper than what should have been just pure lust. Aaron Rivera's charming character of Marby was underused. Acey Aguilar's maniac character of Ramon Bong was inconsistent. Shandi Bacolod's Chubyonce and Xixi Maturan's Daphne are flamboyant scene-stealers. Mercedes Cabral's Atty. Reyna was practically a protracted cameo appearance.
Writer-Director Howard HF Yambao tried to bring us into Mikey's whole experience from that nerve-wracking arrest to the intricately verbose courtroom and the harshly dog-eat-dog world inside the penitentiary. I appreciated this vivid field trip which I fully intend to only experience vicariously. He tried to tackle a little too much incidental subject matter in too little time, the film came across as unfocused. Certain supporting characters and side plots never really get the full development they deserved.
The problems of the local criminal justice and penology systems were seriously poked here, with some unintended humor. The plight of the homosexual inmates in prisons were well-presented. The more essential issue of parental neglect was also subtly exposed. While transgender and AIDS issues are important LGBT topics, their inclusion here may have been given a bit too much time -- time which could have been used to further elucidate pressing issues more pertinent to Mikey himself.
Overall though, "Best. Partee. Ever." succeeds to be a timely, eye-opening yet entertaining warning on the dangers of getting involved in drugs. This important cautionary message could never be over-emphasized, especially among the vulnerable millennial population. 7/10.