It might not be obvious at first, but the consumption of media, particularly the manner in which audiences process movies, is one of the pertinent themes of Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank 2: #ForeverIsNot Enough. Are you the type of moviegoer who spends their hard-earned cash to escape reality, or do you visit the cinema to feed your insatiable intellectual needs? These are some of the questions that the film wishes to answer with its scathingly satirical and potently funny portrayal of the mainstream moviemaking industry.
After the international success of his movie Walang Wala, in demand director Rainier de la Cuesta (Kean Cipriano) is itching to create another masterpiece. His latest passion project is called The Itinerary, a somber drama set in the cold city of Baguio, where a longstanding marriage is on the rocks—the script loosely based on his own crumbling relationship with his wife. There’s only one actress he has in mind for the role: Eugene Domingo, the star who helped launch his own career when she swam through a sea of shit for his former indie hit. Together with line producer Jocelyn (Cai Cortez) and a silent PA called Lennon (Khalil Ramos), he heads over to The Farm, a luxurious resort and spa, to win Eugene Domingo’s commitment. But thing’s won’t be so easy. On a self-imposed hiatus from showbiz, the sly and demanding Ms. Eugene has plans of her own for the role that will relaunch her back into the radar of the masses. And as Rainier courts his muse, the getaway filled with facial treatments and expensive massages turns into an uncomfortable tug-of-war, where both auteur and talent battle it out for creative control.
Eugene Domingo is in top form, consistent as ever in milking the demanding diva stereotype with charming thespian flair. One particular sequence wherein she explains the three levels of hugot is a hilarious and backhanded dig at the recent oversaturation of the rom-com genre. Her costars are just as effective. Seeing Kean Cipriano in a role where he isn’t such a douchebag is quite refreshing, and Cai Cortez always knows how to light up a screen with her mere presence. Even the cameos of Joel Torre and Jericho Rosales add a punch of extra sweetness to a movie already oozing with so much personality.
Nothing is subtle about this sequel. Everything is over the top, yet the film is controlled in its campiness. By showcasing the tired, formulaic tropes with which blockbuster flicks are built on, director Marlon Rivera has fashioned another intelligently self-aware movie that taunts audiences and filmmakers alike. The comedy is whip-smart, Chris Martinez’ script subversive in the sense that it simultaneously mocks and admires the studio fare that has dominated the very film festival Septic Tank 2 is participating in for the last decade.
The film also observes that nowadays, it’s not just about making an amazing movie. It’s about marketing, social media, and coming up with the perfect hashtag that will capture your target demographic’s attention. In short, there’s a lot of smoke and mirrors. And the very spa in which the movie is set becomes a huge metaphor for the studio filmmaking process. The cleansings, rejuvenations, and colonics (yikes!) that Eugene Domingo puts the characters through is a reflection of the mainstream’s machinations. Once a script is put through the wringer, it has been cleansed, rejuvenated, and fucked in the rectum before it actually makes it to the silver screen. The end product: escapist cinema. But is there anything really wrong with that? So much of the arthouse is hinged on delivering a single-minded point of view, so much so that it can become alienating. Rogue directors are sometimes so selfish that they forget that movies are made to be watched and not to mend their own personal demons. Through this sensitive dissection of what goes on pre-production, Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank 2 actually transcends itself, morphing into an entertaining social commentary/comedy. It’s just up to you to decide if you’ll consume it as the former or the latter.