‘Tuhog’ is a Tagalog word that means ‘skewer.’ Directed by Veronica Velasco, Tuhog feels too contrived for my taste. Right from the title credits, I knew I wasn’t gonna like it. Possibly patterned after CSI’s intro, I wondered what effect Tuhog wants to convey by showing a steel nail piercing things in slo-mo? Is this a hi-tech/action film? A thriller? I was disgusted when the nail started piercing food — why not use a barbecue stick and be consistent with the items included? ‘Tuhog.’ Right, got it. Cut to fishball scene.
Do you remember the Grey’s Anatomy ep with people who got skewered in an accident? Tuhog does a similar scenario; it takes things literally it makes my head swell. Actually, if you think about it, the term “tuhog” is sexually suggestive, which this movie in general is not, even with the 3rd story accounted for.
In the ER where the leads are held together by a metal pole, I see Eugene “Uge” Domingo, Leo Martinez and the guy in the middle who I thought was gay taking from the way he said, “my baby might be calling me.” Turned out my gaydar works onscreen too. I heard rumors about this Enchong Dee actor being gay. I didn’t even know how he looked like until now. Dee may not be playing a gay role here but he seemed very gay to me. I was hoping since Tuhog featured social outcasts (an elderly man and a woman bus conductor) that it’d include a gay person. Oh well.
The first story in this moviecue is about Tonio (Leo), a senior citizen who hates the fact that he is one. His family is battling with what I deem to be the onset of his Alzheimer’s disease. Only they let him leave the house on his own, which doesn’t make sense because he’s already forgetting to put on his pants. Going back to the ER, there are “life meters” onscreen, little bars on the lower left-hand portion that indicated chances of survival based on a point system. Come on! You can show immediacy by acting, like in the Grey’s ep Tuhog’s copying. This isn’t Tekken! My friend Ayi said, “that’s the point — it’s supposed to be a joke.” I replied, “isn’t Tuhog a ‘serious’ movie, what with its narration in the end about the meaning of life?” There’s a scene where Tonio was almost ran over by a cab that rammed into a wall with uncemented hollow blocks. Guess how that was executed. Tonio flew in an arc like a stuntman, as if a bomb went off. Isn’t he an old guy already? In incidents like that shouldn’t the guy on the street just spin and fall flat on his on his face, and not look like he was about to somersault? I may be mistaken, but that’s the same street corner later used as Tonio’s dream bakery. Nyar. I don’t wanna watch it again just to prove I’m right. Now who’s the cab driver? Jake Cuenca plays Nato, Uge’s future love interest. Why did he drive the cab into a wall? To attack his ex’s partner. House s07e23 — the very same thing. Talk about lack of originality.
As in the review of Rito Asilo in PDI, “Cuenca may be too good-looking for his role, but he delivers a perfectly calibrated portayal.” This is about as far as I can agree with him, ‘coz he’s singing praises to the ensemble cast’s “career-best portrayals.” Nato is the only role that convinced me. For Cuenca to be able to play a bus driver with a drinking problem who falls head over heels for Uge who plays unpretty and unhappy Fiesta is such a feat given this obviously concocted script.
I read in an article before how Tuhog is compared with Amores Perros — Uge mulled over Tuhog as a movie that could make people think. I watched her breakthrough film Kimmy Dora and I liked its tongue-in-cheek approach. She’s really funny. But as frowning and loud-mouthed Fiesta, she failed to entertain me. Being someone with abandonment issues before, I would’ve related to her character. Only I don’t; people in emotional turmoil usually are good at hiding it. You can’t extract the hurt by asking her about one bracelet after you’ve gone to your first and utterly unsuccessful date. Their love story’s so pilit (trying hard) the audience flinched when they were foreplaying in bed. Fiesta’s part in the movie had ample time; their love story should’ve gotten a better treatment. Nevermind the fact that Fiesta sucked at being a bus conductor — I’m not a frequent commuter but I’ve seen conductors sway with the movements of a bus as if they’re a part of it, no matter how jerky the ride was; they don’t flail around like ordinary passengers, the way Fiesta did.
Funny, the first time you see Fiesta’s house, you couldn’t help but ask, “a bus conductor lives in a spacious 2-storey house?!” I realized the reason was so her father, portrayed by Noel Trinidad, could be on the 2nd floor window to see her and Nato kissing on the street then attempt suicide. How convenient. Hasn’t the director read the rules in Pixar? You don’t make it easy for the characters — you throw challenges at them. I overheard the girl sitting in the row in front of me say, “you don’t just leave your father like that.” Fiesta ended up in Nato’s house, who out of the blue asked her to marry him; next scene she’s pregnant. If it were me, I would exhange the roles of Leo and Noel — Leo would be more convincing as a violent drunkard and Noel as a senile latebloomer. That way Fiesta’s impyerno (hell) as she called it would be more believable.
If you want a movie about sexual frustration, watch the Korean film “Sex Is Zero” and not the 3rd part of Tuhog. Dee plays Caloy, a virgin who sexchats with his LDR (long distance relationship) gf, even in class — this scene elicited laughs but I feel sorry that our poor education system was exposed through a teacher who said “blank” a lot while teaching Philippine history as if to brainless pupils. Fast forward. Caloy’s cuckolded. His gf called out another boy’s name when they were Skypeing, but still we find them under an orchestrated rain, horny as hell. Jump to motel scene where Caloy, fully clothed in bed, confronts his naked blanketed gf with the question “Nagpatira ka na ba?” (Have you been fucked?) Jeezaz. What a line. Are you really in love with her or simply in lust? When he chased her and they were on different buses, he shouted “Ikaw ang nauna!” (You cheated first!) After all I’ve seen in this movie, I didn’t expect that line. So did my friend, and we also questioned the gf’s reactions. She was into another boy and yet she acted like she’s the victim! Correct me if I’m wrong, but she owns a MacBook Pro with retina display and yet she takes a non-aircon bus? She didn’t have the MBP with her but I’d assume she’d have enough money for a more decent commute despite being a drama queen. And the soundtrack was horrible. In the bus chase scene they played an unidentifiable love song by a foreign artist when they could’ve picked an OPM (Original Pinoy Music) to create the desired effect. I suddenly remember that bit where Caloy’s friend was sandwiched between buses. Really. How ridiculous; Caloy and his other friend were already inside the bus when it happened. And the bakery scene where the camera dollies behind the actors and its shadow was cast on their backs, or when Tonio’s fave chair was replaced by a monobloc without fuss as his character would’ve exhibited like in previous scenes… Tuhog has prolly more oversights than I can point out. Plus it missed out on several aspects too, like how they could’ve explored the possibility that Nato’s playing Fiesta — made her fall for him to teach her a lesson for being mean.
As the movie supposedly “merges” the stories during the “climactic” moment of which one of the leads is gonna die, I’m tempted to consult with my Dr. uncle on the plausibility of the medical “facts” in the story. I’m using a lot of quotation marks to show you how incredulous I was. Seriously, using a small saw to cut the metal pole into three without inflicting more harm to the patients? It’s so contrived, so manipulative of the viewers. Watch “Jologs,” a 2002 Filipino film that successfully weaved its characters’ lives into a cohesive story to see how Tuhog fares against it.
I almost expected the cast to dance in the end (in front of the bakery) haha. But what I found most annoying in Tuhog is the beggar kid aka “angel of death” and his meanderings on the frailty of life. Seriously, his monologue could’ve been improved drastically before putting it in the final cut. Adding special effects so the kid appeared on Fiesta’s tomb was the last straw for me. Good thing that’s the end of Tuhog. With all due respect to the director, Tuhog could’ve been better, maybe it could even have become a social commentary.
Movies may be scripted, but they’re not supposed to be fake… 😉