By Rianne Hill Soriano, Contributor

Clashing stereotypes

Posted on December 20, 2013

Movie Review Ang Turkey Man ay Pabo Rin Directed by Randolph Longjas

ANG TURKEY MAN AY PABO RIN -- an entry to the CineFilipino 2013 Film Festival, and now one of the films being screened at the ongoing Cinemanila Film Festival -- works as a celebration of life and love in a way that is both real and absurd. Striking a careful balance between crazy comedy and touching moments, this cross-cultural movie offers depth to a story that examines existing stereotypes using witty humor and light drama. It puts significant value and context to its comedy, which is rarely seen in local comedic offerings.

A SCENE from Ang Turkey Man ay Pabo Rin
This film, directed by Randolph Longjas, uses an effective structure to more interestingly tell the typical love story of a Filipino-American couple.

It utilizes a reality show and he-said-she-said narrative coupled by flashbacks, which help avoid the predictability of the material. The storytelling choices help provide more layers to the tale, and, along the way, deliver its social messages with conviction.

The story reveals a week of adventures and misadventures in the lives of a newlywed couple, as told in a documentary set up by the Fil-Am dating Web site that made it possible for them to meet and find true love. The time frame coincides with the Pinay’s upcoming visa interview schedule at the US embassy and it wraps up during Thanksgiving, one of the most important yearly celebrations for Americans. The wife finds herself entangled with passing the stringent visa interview, as well as getting a turkey for her husband’s Thanksgiving dinner. In between the documentation of the milestones of these two lovers’ married life, the story presents the dynamics of their relationship and their interactions with their family, friends and neighbors, and also the strangers they meet in different occasions.

This comedy about love, commitment and community focuses on the romantic pair’s perspective on cross-cultural experiences in the household.

Instead of romanticizing love, the film shows its realities. It distinctly presents some Filipino stereotypes, then tears them apart.

The skillful writing features an endearing take on the complexities of relationships in general, as well as the trials, tribulations and triumphs of a Fil-Am marriage.

The main character, a gaudily dressed self-employed young widow from the lower-middle class, lives off deboning fish to take care of her quirky young son. Her loving husband, a business process outsourcing professional, embraces the charmingly simple life in a small Philippine community, but he still aims to bring his new family to the United States.

These two lovers face cultural and societal problems in their relationship, which seems judged at every turn.

As the sequences move briskly on screen, the film succeeds in promoting a wide array of topics. The genuine conversations between two people coming from disparate contexts offer a clear-eyed portrait of a relationship that needs to constantly defend itself from prejudice. The scenes also address the peculiarities of Filipinos that Americans would find strange and vice versa.

The narrative gives the right dose of comic ingredients in many scenes through the characters’ diverse escapades. Hilarity ensues as the cross-cultural lovers try their best to embrace their differences in the middle of the wife’s bonding moments with her son, her superstitious provincial parents, her wayward brother, and her zany girlfriends. To add more color to the proceedings, the husband talks about his good and bad encounters with odd customs and unusual habits inherent to Philippine culture.

At times, the over-the-top moments and excessively flamboyant scenes pull down the film. But more often than not, the ensemble cast’s acting delivers the comfort and laughter the story ultimately needs. The main character -- played by Tuesday Vargas -- is usually funny but real. Her role is familiar and stereotypical, yet human and beyond stereotype. Travis Kraft generally fits his American husband role, amidst some moments of self-conscious acting.

More than just the laughs it has in store for the audience, this comedic piece carefully and deliberately tackles a couple of stereotypical culture-clash issues with tender and moving commitment. Although things tend to get uneven, the film remains entertaining in how it explores the nuances of an interracial marriage in the Philippine setting.