Movie Review for Desperadas

No Sympathy

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The question that may go through an astute moviegoer’s mind while watching Desperadas is “why should I care about these people?” Even with the strength of the four lead actresses, Desperadas fails to make sympathetic characters, and in the end, stumbles badly.

Four half-sisters (all with different fathers) with different personalities go through the trials and tribulations of modern women. Isabella is a commitment-phobe and has trouble paying her bills. Patricia is a celebrity sexologist whose strong personality is causing tension with her husband. Stephanie is a timid wife who starts entertaining the possibility of an affair because the sex in her marriage has died down. And Courtney is an underwear designer whose extroverted personality conflicts with her fiancée’s newfound Christian faith.

The problem with Desperadas is that there’s just no reason to like these characters. These people are horrible and almost impossible to root for. Why should we care about Isabella’s troubles, when she spends most of her time lying to everyone and flaunting her wealth? Why should we hope Courtney’s wedding works out, when she seems to care more about the welfare of her annoying little dog? We don’t need a film’s characters to be all sunshine and rainbows, but they should at least have a basic decency to them so we can invest in their story. It’s one thing to have character flaws, and a completely different thing to create a completely reprehensible character.

It’s about dimensions, and these characters don’t really have any. They have one character quirk and they seem to stick with it for the entire film. And these quirks are really just negative female stereotypes. One’s deceptive and useless with bills. One’s a control freak. Another’s timid and weak. And the last one’s a ditz. And they’re all boy and sex-crazy. These aren’t portraits of the modern woman; they’re caricatures. We need to ask for more than that.

Beyond that, the script doesn’t really show us the motivations of characters. Everyone in this film is ridiculously flighty, constantly changing their mind from one scene to the next without any explanation. Most of the sub-plots in this film go absolutely nowhere. The filmmakers seem to have chosen silly gags over proper character development, and it really weakens the film.

The four lead actresses are unabashedly talented, but even their combined strengths aren’t enough to salvage these characters. The direction seems to have led them to go overly large, which just highlights the weakness of the writing even further. They play the one note their characters have over and over, and louder and louder until it all becomes very shrill. Ruffa Gutierrez comes off really flat and unlikeable. Rufa Mae wears out her act midway. Iza Calzado, who is usually outstanding in everything, comes off terribly weak. And Marian Rivera is unable to build any depth. It’s all terribly frustrating, since all the talent is there, but it feels squandered.

It just feels like they aimed low with Desperadas, not trusting the audience to pick up on the subtleties that the largeness of cinema can bring into view. So the result was this: mostly a collection of silly gags about how irrational and horrible women can be. We should be asking for much, much more.

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