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Slumber Party: Not just a slapstick movie?

For the people behind Slumber Party, the movie is an attempt to showcase something true to the lives of homosexual men. Patrick King Pascual considers if it lived up to this lofty intention.

It may appear to be just another “limp-wrist type” of indie movie that’s trying to get the attention of the general public by using stereotyped gay images, but according to the hetero actors who portrayed the gay roles, “there’s so much more to the film than the usual comedy punchlines in the story.”

This is what – at least for the people involved in it – is at least worth highlighting in Slumber Party.

This is because, seemingly belying the impression that can be had from the movie’s poster that only highlight the stereotyped homosexual portrayal of the characters, as the movie progresses, it supposedly takes a different direction – that is, the story of friendship.

Directed by Emman dela Cruz, Slumber Party is the story of three gay men (Archi Alemania, RK Bagatsing and Markki Stroem) who met for a sleepover to watch the telecast of a Miss Universe pageant. The movie was set in 2010,  when two “major, major events happened in the country – the hostage taking of the Hong Kong nationals at Quirino Grandstand (and President Noynoy Aquino’s response – or perceived lack of response – to it), and Venus Raj’s pursuit of the Miss Universe title. But their supposed fun-filled night changed when an unexpected intruder (Sef Cadayona) came into the picture.

“It’s a tribute to the Filipino – how we love pageants. But we mixed it with some hostage taking while we’re waiting for Venus Raj’s candidacy. We were actually (also watching the) TV during the hostage taking, so we sort of put it together. It starts with that and ends with the co-relation of the two,” said Dela Cruz, explaining how the movie was conceptualized.

Although the film is only about to get widely released, it was actually first released on November 2012 as part of Cinema One Originals, and it received mixed reviews from different critics.  One said that the movie “struggled to make every light-hearted moment deep and relevant, pumping each hilarious scene with heavy-handed revelations involving nearly every current queer dilemma and issue.” Another critic said that “there are funny bits in this movie, but it lost me completely after a scene where one of the gay men sexually abuses the tied-up intruder.”

The actors explained that Slumber Party is not really a comedy movie. Instead, it is mixed with drama.  “It’s a story of friends and people who are having a sleepover and can be who they are,” Stroem said. “When you only watch the trailer, you will just see that they’re all gay; but when you watch the movie as a whole, you’ll understand their friendship and their personalities as gay men.”

Stroem, who portrays the character of Elle (in his own words, “the sosyal character among the three and she thinks she’s better than everyone else and the she belongs abroad), sees the movie as an embodiment of what the gays are facing in their everyday lives.

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Alemania portrays the character of Jana, the “baklang squatter na nagbibihis babae.” “I don’t find the character offensive; we see those kind of gays everyday,” he said. “At the end of the day, what I did was just work, and before I accepted the role I read the script and for me, I considered it not just a slapstick movie, but something true to life and there’s a lesson in the end,” he said.

Despite the not-too-glowing reviews, Slumber Party is aiming to reach a bigger market, the mainstream.

“We wanted to find a good time for it, and it really takes time for an independent outfit to get a booking. Since we’re small, it takes time for us to strategize considering the resources that we have. We really see the potential of the movie becoming a hit in the mainstream,” Slumber Party publicist Gay Domingo said.

Probably one of the most notable things about the movie is that it features three popular heterosexual actors trying their best to portray gay roles. While – for actors – the role may be a good test of their acting skills, this approach has long been observed as in need of scrutiny because it may well be the new form of blackface, i.e. gayface. We are, as earlier noted, more than mannerisms to get “right”.

On  a more personal note for me, the movie became disturbing when the “tri-beki” fancied to assault the captured heterosexual man, and – worse – one of the gay characters actually sexually abused him. It may be funny from the writer’s point of view, but the very notion of rape is not funny; just as the stereotyped portrayal of homosexuals when they are around heterosexuals isn’t funny, either. As such, if these are what the writers find funny, then I honestly think there’s something wrong with their sense of humor.

That particular scene – all by itself – belied the (other, and supposedly loftier) objectives of the movie.

It is also somewhat ironic that for Stroem, the storyline of the movie “showcases the different kinds of gays in the world, and that it empowers the gay community. Because gays have that sense of ownership of who they are as a person, that they would not want to change how they think or how they perceive things based on how other people perceive them.”

Because in the end, empowerment was the last thing on my mind after watching the movie.

Slumber Party hits theaters nationwide on November 27.

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