Friday, August 8, 2014

CINEMALAYA 2014: Review of HUSTISYA: Nora's Last Laugh

August 8, 2014

“Hustisya” is the most awaited film in this year’s Cinemalaya Film Festival and the one with the most advanced publicity for one reason.  It stars no less than the Superstar, Ms. Nora Aunor.  Every new film that stars Ms. Aunor is an event, especially this one, following the recent controversial presidential snub of her nomination for National Artist.

Virginia Cabahug, more known by her nickname Biring (Nora Aunor), is a trusted aide of a bigtime human trafficking queen Vivian (Rosanna Roces). She does the rounds with the payoffs and deliveries walking around with her umbrella, white bag and thermos jug.  One day, Biring gets framed for murder.  While in prison, she was linked up with a hotshot young lawyer, Atty. Gerald (Rocco Nacino). The attorney not only gets Biring released, but also revealed bigger plans for her within their organization. 

Nora Aunor is really an acting force to reckon with and delivers all the goods her fans expect from her.  She may not seem too comfortable with the comedy aspects, with a number of one-liners that did not fly. But you cannot deny that her serious dramatic scenes were all nailed perfectly.  The way she delivers those lines punctuated with Tagalog or Bicolano profanity was so crisp! She is not a saint here. And yes, those eyes still pack their punch.

The rest of the cast also mostly do well. Rocco Nacino exudes confidence in his role as a crooked cocky young lawyer. Rosanna Roces looked and acted every inch like a wicked madame, with Gardo Versoza as her libidinous consort.  Romnick Sarmenta was realistic as an investigative reporter hungry for an expose.  Miles Kanapi stood out as a lesbian bully inmate who loves videoke and beating people up. With her fair skin color, there was no way Sunshine Dizon could be Nora's daughter, but she manages to  convince us she could be. 

While I get that it is a metaphor, I am wondering if it is indeed possible to go up the clock tower of the Manila City Hall, like Biring did regularly to appease the city by throwing prayers and cash off its balcony. As it is, it seemed too strange and contrived a ritual for a scared woman from the province to think of doing in real life.

And that strange scene at the very end deserves special mention. What could that be all about? It echoes the classic open ending of "Lost in Translation" as we see Atty. Gerald whisper something to Biring, which elicited a most unexpected reaction from her, the meaning of which will long be speculated upon.

Director Joel Lamangan works with a Ricky Lee script that was rich in detail and well-plotted. The film as a whole may be just good on the whole, as Lamangan detoured a lot from the main story to showcase poverty porn and anti-imperialism rallies. He just did so more pointedly in his recent film "Kamkam" (My Review). But for "Hustisya", there is little doubt that its main highlight is Ms. Nora Aunor, and she is well on her way to winning another Best Actress statuette here. 6/10.

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