Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Netflix Picks: The Fabulous Filipino Brothers

There’s so much opportunity for Asian representation these days with the rise in popularity of Korean music (BTS), movies (Parasite), and TV shows (Crash Landing on You) in the US. Movies like Crazy Rich Asians also paved the way for more opportunities for Asians in Hollywood. 

I think it’s a natural step in the right direction to have a movie that focuses on Filipino culture since there are so many of them in the entertainment industry. People like Lou Diamond Philips, Vanessa Hudgens, Olivia Rodrigo, H.E.R….there are so many of them to mention. I think it was a given that eventually a movie would come out to showcase some of that Filipino talent. Enter the Basco brothers (Dante, Darion, Dionysio, and Derek) and their movie, The Fabulous Filipino Brothers. 

The Fabulous Filipino Brothers is about the four male siblings of the Abasta family and the series of events each one had leading to the wedding that is at the center of the movie. In a way, you get four mini-movies or episodes in one movie that ties them all together. All this was also being narrated by an unseen female, whose identity is revealed at the end of the movie. 

Each brother has a different story. The eldest, Dayo (Derek Basco), is all about taking responsibility for his siblings and extended family. So much so that he has taken in two of his brothers, his grandmother, and their parents into the home he shares with his wife and children. He jokes about Filipinos being different from other Asians that way. The narrator of the movie also says the same thing: after being colonized by so many countries (Spain, Japan, and the US), it was a given that Filipinos were Asian, but definitely a different type of Asian.  

The second brother, Duke (Dante Basco), is the golden boy of the family. The one who is the family success story. He and his wife are having problems having children and when he travels to the Philippines on a business trip, he decides on a whim to leave her when he gets a chance encounter with his childhood sweetheart (played by Solenn Heussaf). Things don’t work out (will not spoil why) and he flies back to the US to be with his wife. 

The third brother is the troublemaker of the family, Danny Boy (Darion Basco). His story was not so much a story as it was a sort of sexy slapstick comedy scene with a woman he meets at the wedding. Of all the stories, this was the one I liked the least. 

The last brother, David (Dionysio Basco), is the heartbroken brother who cannot move on from being left by his wife. This is where Danny Boy has a more significant role as the one who registers him into a dating app that results in a date between David and Teresa (played by Lisa Lapira, of the TV shows Dollhouse, NCIS, and The Equalizer). It is their wedding that ends up being the center of this movie.

There is so much of the movie that shows Filipino/ Filipino-American culture. The way the extended families live in one home, the family gatherings with all the food (especially the lumpia and lechon), the Fil-Am associations with their get-togethers and presentations, cockfighting, elders who go to mass regularly and complain that their children didn’t learn Tagalog…I could go on and on. Dante Basco, who also directed the film, said that the movie is not meant to be a definitive take on what it means to be Filipino in the US, but it still shows a lot of it anyway. 

The movie, while it does give Filipinos an opportunity to have representation on the big screen, fell below my expectations. I thought some of the comedy did not really register with me (but it could be a culture thing because I’m not Fil-Am?) and I felt that with four different stories there wasn’t time to show the relationship of these brothers together as their stories were told apart from each other.

Marvel fans would have surely noticed that during David’s story, there was a photo featured prominently in the kids’ room. It was of Derek Basco’s daughter Ella Jay, who portrayed Cassandra Cain in Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of Harley Quinn. Another little nod to Filipinos making it in Hollywood.

If you want to watch and see an attempt at Filipino representation in Hollywood, this is a movie to see. I suggest not having certain expectations about it as it was not meant to be another Crazy Rich Asians or Parasite. It’s entertaining and amusing in its own way, but I'm not sure if it's something I’d ever watch again. 


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