GMA Network was not afraid to break new ground last year with My Husband’s Lover. And they don’t appear to be backing down from controversial topics in 2014 with Carmela, a fictionalized “ripped from the headlines” version of the sensational story of the beating of accused rapist Vhong Navarro that’s currently dominating the airwav…
Huh? No? It’s not? Oh, oops.
Well, that would’ve been a ballsy show, yeah? But really, Carmela‘s first week was a little more typical. Which is a surprise considering the series is created by much acclaimed Suzette Doctolero (My Husband’s Lover, Amaya) and has been hyped as a fresh, exciting concept.
Carmela‘s subtitle, Ang Pinakamagandang Babae sa Mundong Ibabaw (The Most Beautiful Woman on the Face of the Earth), suggests a much more interesting story even if its first week did not.
Seemingly inspired by the 1970s Gloria Diaz film Ang Pinakamagandang Hayop sa Balat ng Lupa, Carmela aims to tell the story of how the title character’s incredible beauty is more of a burden than a blessing. This while she waits for the day she can finally seek justice for her presumed dead mother.
Don Fernando Torres (played by a hopefully not continually typecast Roi Vinzon) lusts after Carmela’s mother Amanda (Agot Isidro), unhappy by his old losyang of a wife, Dr. Fides (Laurice Guillen). He wants her so much, he stands by and lets Amanda’s husband Danilo (Ricky Davao) get run over by a goddamn train while picking up lemons he dropped. Seriously.
With Danilo out of the picture, he has his way with Amanda, raping her twice before she manages to stab him with a letter opener. He survives, but manages to point the finger at Amanda with the help of the local chief (who is in his pocket of course) and a protective and naive wife.
Amanda ends up pregnant from the rapes and Fernando has the police make it seem she’s escaped when really he has her secretly imprisoned until she gives birth. Fernando finagles a way to have his wife welcome and adopt the baby while ordering the police chief (Freddie Webb) to kill Amanda.
Brave enough to confront the evil Fernando and his oblivious wife, Carmela (Mona Louise Rey) decides to run away from the provincial town when she realizes her mother has died and she’s likely next.
Stowing away on a bus to Manila, Carmela ends up getting taken in by Lola Wagay (Eva Darren). In exchange for Carmela helping her sell veggies and fruits on a cariton, Lola makes sure to pay for her education. Carmela vows to go to school, get rich and get revenge.
Fast forward. Carmela is now in college (Marian Rivera) and her beauty turns everyone’s heads, including the campus feelingero who feels Carmela should be more than willing to drop down on her knees for him.
And so ends Carmela‘s first week. It all feels very familiar and almost uninteresting. You don’t really yet get the sense that there’s anything new to be offered, despite the provocative subtitle.
Indeed, the most interesting and probably most memorable moment from the week had to be Agot Isidro’s line as Amanda…
“Babae rin kayo. Alam niyo hindi madaling aminin kapag hinalay!”
Tell that to half the country.
But seriously, fortunately or not, Carmela‘s story is actually boosted by the talk of rape and revenge dominating the headlines in the last few weeks. That the country is all worked up by such sensationalism, this dramatized situation, even if only a small part of the bigger picture of the show, seems more interesting than it would be otherwise.
What carries the first week though is the stunning visuals care of creative cinematography and effective use of high definition. Filipino networks like to tout the use of HD cameras in their shows, despite still having to be broadcast in standard definition. But what’s been so perplexing is how a supposedly HD-filmed series looks older than most SD-filmed shows from the last few years. That’s some serious downconversion.
A couple of GMA dramas including My Husband’s Lover, Prinsesa ng Buhay Ko and Katipunan as well as GMA News TV dramas Bayan Ko and Titser have effectively used HD to their advantage. Carmela does the same. Two scenes from the first week are perfect examples. First, a close-up of a match getting struck and then a close-up of the ground as little Carmela (played by Mona Louise Rey) steps on a just dropped cigarette butt.
The director’s use of depth and perspective as well as the slick and crisp cinematography help make Carmela feel fresh even if the writing does not.
There isn’t much to say about the acting this early. Marian Rivera has barely had any material to really work with yet. Same with Alden Richards who could get a big career boost if the series allows him to. Agot Isidro gives a great performance as
Deneice Amanda, who I’m guessing turns up in the future? Roi Vinzon is going to start getting typecast as the creepy, disgusting old rapist, I know it. And Laurice Guillen’s self-described underacting feels more hollow than understated.
Maybe Carmela is a slow burn. I certainly hope so. Because it’d be a waste of a solid cast and great direction if it’s just going to be another “one of those.”