Maid In Malacañang (2022) Movie Review - A Non-Bias Take
It's funny how a movie's influence on the audience has divided the country into believing what is true and what is not, how a new breed of director created a commotion that has been discussed on social media websites like Facebook or Twitter because of a portrayal of one of the most controversial Filipino families ever.
But this is not about taking the right side and lambasting the wrong. As far as I know, this is not about choosing who should be correct because it's all stated in history books or articles.
This is still entertainment.
Historical movies or biopics have marked their way into our history. Films like All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), Schindler's List (1993), and 12 Years A Slave (2013) are some examples that combined history with entertainment in the right way. Meanwhile, Argo (2012), Braveheart (1995), Titanic (1997), and Pocahontas (1995) are those that have been deemed historically inaccurate but entertaining. Even gigantic flicks like Lawrence of Arabia (1962) had been whipped by its portrayal of a seemingly naive TE Lawrence. The criticisms it might receive are different and non-important. Because, like others, what matters most is the amount it generates through its sales.
The film depicts the story of one of the most hated-slash-loved-slash-controversial Filipino political families ever, the Marcoses. The story circulated more during their final 36 hours in Malacanang in 1986 before exiling them to Hawaii.
The film is divided into ten chapters and starts right after Imee Marcos went home to the Philippines from Singapore due to the request of his father, President Ferdinand Marcos. She learned that her brother, Bongbong foiled a plot to assassinate the family while blaming high-ranking officials for betrayal.
After NAMFREL declared the snap election in 1986 as fraud that announced Ferdinand Marcos as the winner, he feared that he was now losing government control. Cut archives from the inauguration of both Corazon Aquino and Ferdinand Marcos were broadcasted that don't ultimately tell the whole story but focus on one side. Meanwhile, Imee and her siblings try to convince their parents to leave the country because they fear that the "rebels" might storm the Malacanang and kill them.
Some parts of the film also tell the story from the perspective of their three trusted maids, Yaya Biday, Lucy, and Santa.
Maid in Malacanang may be controversial, but it is one of the easiest to break down, especially if you love watching films like me. It has so many misses that it's awful to watch, even if you don't factor in the historical accuracy.
First, the way it was shot. I had high expectations since it might have been the first Filipino movie to show this kind of camera style, but it wasn't enjoyable for it to be not executed so cleanly. Maid in Malacanang pride itself on those long single takes similar to Birdman (2014) or 1917 (2019), which I think is a beautiful idea if you want to explore or innovate, but in this film, it just didn't work out as expected. There are unnecessary blockings, and several shots made the film experience much worse and didn't portray the characters' emotions.
Second, the way the story was divided. For a movie with a runtime of well below 120 minutes, dividing it into ten chapters, with a small prologue and ending credits, will be too difficult. It is a bold idea, but it did not work well. Some scenes were too short of understanding what the chapter signifies or represents. Some chapters were just brief discussions in one room; it changed when it shifted to another.
Third, the acting is either too much or too less. The actors or actresses who portrayed each character are no doubt talented. They might have been selected because of their history in the Filipino movie industry. They may have been great in drama because they portray emotions well. However, some scenes had just too much acting or too less. As someone like me who doesn't get too emotional in most drama movies, simply crying or delivering lines by shouting doesn't make it good. Sometimes it needs to have more facial expressions, body language, etc. One bit of example here is the movie The Apartment (1960). The film had little acting but more on how their lines were structured to match the characters.
Lastly, the cheap set designs and usage of actual clips. I understand why historical films use clips from real events to make them look realistic. But if you utilize them, then confuse the viewers because it doesn't add to the story, or it's just to extend the screen time for no reason. It won't make sense to use them. Also, the set design and location they picked to shoot the movie are inappropriate. I don't know if it's a micro version of the grandest mansion in the Philippines because it looks so claustrophobic. Was the budget not enough?
However, it takes a lot of guts and determination to watch the movie from a non-biased perspective. It is a powerful propaganda film, and I got to give credit to that. But I also have to say even if you remove all the historical aspects of the movie, it is still quite dull and hard to stomach.
There are excellent Filipino movies out there, historical or fictional, but this one is far from it.
A disappointing 0 out of 5 stars.