Family, business, and sexuality

Pub date February 17, 2009
SectionFilm FeaturesSectionFilm Review

REVIEW Brilliante Mendoza’s Serbis reminded me of a Robert Altman film. The story centers on the Pineda family, who operate a run-down movie house playing porn features in the provincial Philippines. The film weaves in and out amid the many relatives living together while showing a glimpse of the activity within the theater itself (the sex trade in action). It feels as though we are simply tagging along like a friend visiting for the day, a feeling heightened by extensive handheld camera use. The family is not one without problems: the matriarch must deal with a divorce trial, a younger son impregnates his girlfriend, and a daughter bears the burden of running the theater from day to day. Meanwhile, the in-house sex work is so lively that the prostitutes appear to prosper far more than the struggling Pinedas. The latest from acclaimed director Mendoza (2007’s Slingshot and Foster Child), Serbis offers an overall interesting look at the dynamics of family, business, and sexuality. 

SERBIS opens Fri/20 in Bay Area theaters.