There are several advantages in casting straight actors to portray gay characters be it in movies or television series especially in the comedy genre. More often than not, straight actors are able to give justice in recreating a portrait of a character, which is so familiar to everyone, any of us can already come up with a long list of the kinds of gay personality we are expecting to see. Hence, it’s a hard not to analyze the roles Sam Milby and Zanjoe Marudo play in Laxamana’s recent film outing, The Third Party.
The film revolves between former flames Andi (Angel Locsin) and Max (Milby). A flashback in 2010, reluctant to stay in LDR (long distance relationship), Andi decides to break up with Max when she learns that the latter is leaving for the US to study medicine. Then, the film goes on a fast forward to 2014 when Max returns to Manila only to crash Andi’s hope of reconciliation when he introduces her to Christian (Marudo), his new lover.
The next scene then takes the audience to 2016, with Andi becoming homeless after her boyfriend takes all their money and leaves for Canada. Even worse, Andi discovers that she’s pregnant. And with no other option left, she seeks for Max and Christian’s help for abortion.
Christian sees this opportunity to give Andi an offer: Max and him would take care of her and pay for all her expenses and even give her a hundred thousand pesos just to continue her pregnancy. Once she gives birth, the gay couple will adopt the child.
Milby and Marudo did a decent job in delivering the emotional requirements of their individual characters. But on the flip side, there is so much about their body language that can hardly convince the audience that they are indeed playing the role of a gay couple. Not even their kissing scene, their occasional body contact and their one-time HHWW (holding hand while walking) sequence can satisfy everyone’s idea of what a gay couple should be. They lack the natural intimacy especially the chemistry, which is the main requisite for any onscreen tandem, gay or not.
Meanwhile, Locsin looks divine onscreen. She looks exactly the way people expect her to be and the same thing can be said of her acting. Laxamana cast Locsin in the film and let the actress just portray herself instead of an entirely a different person, which the film tried to come up with.
Laxamana’s attempt to take this kind of story to mainstream cinema can be lauded but he failed to explore the complexity of the characters involved. It’s hard to empathize with characters that cry a lot and apologize all the time. It actually brings us to the point that the only memorable line we can remember from the film is “I’m sorry,” which the three central characters deliver more than twice each. The only good thing about their apologies though, they lead to making amends and to bridging derailed relationships.
This queer-themed film being given a mainstream treatment can be likened to how Laxamana presented his version of third wheel and sexual fluidity. With camera angles limited to mid shots, it is as if we are just watching three characters confined inside a box: no special treatment done, no memorable lines to remember, and lacks the appropriate amount of gayness to make the film stand out.