J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Pretty Rosebud: Traditional Families & Strange Bedfellows

Cecilia “Sissy” Santos is a political consultant who feels deeply guilty when she succumbs to adulterous temptation. Yes, that sounds far-fetched, but if you can accept it, there are merits to be found in Oscar Torre’s Pretty Rosebud (trailer here), written by and starring his real life wife Chuti Tiu, which opens this Friday in Los Angeles.

Apparently, Santos works for a combination boutique PR agency and political consulting firm, but its not clear what they do during odd numbered years. Regardless, she at least has a going career with opportunities for advancement. That is more than her lay-about husband Phil can say. He resents his wife’s status as the sole breadwinner, but he refuses to even consider anything less than his previous gig. In all honesty, his ambition has dried up and his sex drive essentially followed with it.

However, Sissy Santos has this boxing trainer (conveniently played by Torre, who looks the part). She regrets it afterward, but of course her husband is still his same insufferably entitled self. Time spent with her traditional Filipino family does not help much either, especially when they complain about her golden boy brother’s divorced Anglo girlfriend. To make matters worse, she has plenty of candidates for further adultery at work, including the congressional nominee, whose campaign she is assigned to.

Tiu might be writing from a Filipina perspective, but the issues Santos wrestles with should resonate with audiences from diverse ethnic backgrounds, with old school parents. Arguably, she really stacks the deck against dumb old Phil, but her scenes with the family’s Catholic priest are surprisingly well written and more than fair to the priest. In fact, the good Father just might have some helpful, nonjudgmental counsel to offer.

Obviously, Rosebud was conceived as a showcase for Tiu (a former Miss Illinois), but she proves to be equal to the challenge of carrying the picture. She is a striking presence, but the maturity tempering her sexuality is something you almost never see on film. It is a bold, vulnerably exposed performance. While Torre has limited screen time as Alejandro the trainer, he helps generate the necessary heat to set in motion all the subsequent conflicts. Richard Yniguez’s Father Antonio also nicely bolsters the film’s forgiving tone. In contrast, Kipp Shiotani certainly makes viewers contemptuous of Phil, which seems to be his assignment, while the Santos parents are mostly played as broad, churchy stereotypes.

Rosebud is a small intimate film, but it juggles some heavy themes relatively dexterously. If nothing else, the gym scenes ought to convince DirecTV they need Tiu and Torre for the next season of Kingdom. Recommended for those who appreciate a frank, women’s POV adultery drama, Pretty Rosebud opens this Friday (1/16) in Los Angeles at the Arena Cinema.

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