My Ten Cents On: Rakenrol
Last week, after watching Rakenrol over at the Cultural Center of the Philippines, something awesome happened. I got to sit down with a few friends and had a great talk about the movie. I went over to Yellow Cab with my best bud, Patty Mendoza, and her friends, C.J. de Silva and Wincy Ong, and joined briefly by Ramon Bautista, we spent the better part of that late dinner talking about this movie as well as Wincy’s own film, San Lazaro. It was half an hour of a great and entertaining exchange of ideas and opinions, an experience which I hope to have again soon and often.
So, why did I start off my review by recounting that? Well, its simply because I don’t want to go down this review claiming its just mine. This was a product of that conversation and I felt that a shout-out was due. So, now that my conscience is clear, let’s get on with the review!
Rakenrol is the story of a group of four individuals, Odie and Irene who’re best friends, Mo, a former punk star-turned barista, and Junfour, a school bully, who form a band called Hapipaks, managed by a former child star Matet De Leon, and their rough-and-tumble journey from a fledgling little group to becoming one of the more popular bands in the underground music scene. And what a journey it was.
By this I’m referring to the movie’s cultural atmosphere. The film boasts an incredible list of cameos from the who’s who from the Philippine band scene, an interesting commentary on the culture of music locally, and captures moments that practically anyone who’s been to one of these gigs can relate to. In essence, to quote Wincy, “We’ll look back on this movie 20 years from now and say, we were a part of that.” This movie could be an equivalent to Reality Bites, or Empire Records, so to speak, in that its something that we could look back on as an experience of our youth that separates us from the other generations before and after.
My companions and I also had a shared consensus, while chowing down on that 18″ New York’s Finest pizza, that this movie showed how much the director, Quark Henares, loves music. Not even going into the cameos of famed musicians (of which there are many), the movie treats the act of building a band, performing, and writing music as very personal growth experience.
This movie has got so much about music surrounding it that many people thought that this was a band movie (which it was not, but I’ll get more into that later). The backdrop of the music culture was so strong, and shown with such breadth and care, that it would suck you in and firmly set in your suspension of disbelief. Its so strong that you feel like a part of it, that you are in that music culture, and you’re actually in the experience, and not just watching it on screen.
What else can I say, there was real love put into the making of this movie, and it showed.
The movie had moments of brilliant comedic timing. There were so many parts in this movie that had the whole theater erupting in laughter. And for the most part it was very entertaining. Rakenrol had a great sense of who its audience was and what that audience wanted to see and hear, and I always enjoy a movie that knows what it wants to be and who its for. My approach generally being spoiler-free, I won’t be going to divulge any of these jokes and moments of hilarity, but I will tell you that a lot of it came from the…
+ Supporting Cast
Specifically, I refer to Diether Ocampo as Jacci Rocha and Jun Sabayton as Yagit. These two characters stole the show for me. The movie may have been about the band members of Hapipaks, but these guys really made the film worth watching.
Jacci Rocha is the rockstar. He speaks in pretentious and incorrect English, always has himself referred to as “Jacci Rocha” and even says his name several times in his own hit song. His character is a roll-up of every single stereotype in the book, and that’s what makes him so interesting. He isn’t just one-dimensional in terms of a stereotype, he encapsulates so many stereotypes that he becomes a really deep seeded character in himself. He delivers such a complete performance that it makes you wonder, while laughing the whole way down, how anyone could become like that. I mean, with lines like: “Your musika is an extension of your soooouuuul,” how could you go wrong?
Yagit is another character whose story should have been told. He was an incredibly intelligent student in college, but was introduced to art through his roommate, the guitarist of the Hapipaks, Mo, and ever since has shed foreign influences from all aspects of his life. He changes his name from the “slave-name” Francis to the Filipino word “Yagit” meaning weed or trash in Tagalog, he does performance art, including covering himself in fecal matter, he sells his roommate’s guitar to pay for rent and art supplies, and when he gets attacked by his friend out of anger, he instinctively takes photos. I swear, these scenes feels like we stumbled upon another movie that would have also been amazing to watch.
Lastly, I have to give props to how they integrated Matet De Leon into the film. The film took her former child-star status and built it to her building an incredible network in the music industry mostly due to her fan club. It was a fun spin and it gave a bit more spice to the movie.
+/- Core Plot
I don’t know where I feel about this, so I decided to stay undecided (if that makes any sense). The good thing about this plot is that, coupled with the atmosphere, its something that a great number of us are familiar with. We’ve been in the shoes of these characters at one point or another and so the story feels very relatable. This is what I loved about the plot.
What I didn’t love was that, despite it being surrounded by music and following the exploits of the band, it isn’t a band movie. Its a romantic comedy at its heart. The plot doesn’t follow the ups and downs of the band itself, rather the band finds itself following the ups and downs of the relationship between Odie and Irene. The other two band members’ stories, despite having conflicts of their own, don’t really seem to have any impact on the band, and apart from the snag of their first performance, just rose to prominence quite easily. Minus the relationship angle, that was the only problem of the band as if to say that the only thing you need to succeed in the music industry is to have good music, a good manager, and not falling in love with a band-mate. I’ve never been in a band and never really seen the backstage of these things, but I do believe that there’s a little bit more to success than that.
Also, I do have to credit CJ and Wincy for this, but the movie didn’t have a Tiny Dancer moment, or a That Thing You Do moment. For a film about music and a band, the music itself was a background, it never really came into the forefront. You could tell this because, despite having decent music, they never do a full cover of it, nor does it ever sink in. After coming out of the movie, I didn’t remember any of the songs, because, they weren’t catchy enough and the scenes weren’t grabbing me as well.
My favorite band of all-time is the Beatles. I can truly say I’m a fan of theirs, I know every song, and I’ve even studied up on them a few times (I would love to get that MA in Beatles-ology). The one reason why I love them so much, as well as a lot of my other favorite bands, such as Toto, Queen, and Simon and Garfunkel, is that their music shows a great blend of sound and silence. A lot of songs nowadays seem to forget that silence is also a musical note meant to add emphasis to the rest of the notes.
I would say the same about film. There aren’t as many films that appreciate silence and slower scenes to add emphasis to the action as I’d like. And sadly, Rakenrol was one of them. There was always something going on, one stimulus after the next, one event after the next. I never had time to settle down and appreciate the whole narrative, because it just kept jamming ideas, images, and events down my eye-holes. The problem with movies that tend to be so full of things happening left and right is that eventually, it becomes very hard to sustain. This movie kept the constant pace of introducing so many different elements that it did get a bit tiring towards the end. It wasn’t a really bad form of pacing, just something that I had hoped would have been better.
My Cent’s Worth: 7/10
It was a fun film to watch, and one that tugs at your memories and experiences. It isn’t a perfect film, but its one that’ll probably mean more to us than many of the better shot films out there, precisely because this was a movie that we’ve been through, that we’ve experienced, and its basically an immortalization of the memories that a lot of us have shared growing up. And as such, this is definitely one of the movies you should not be missing.