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18 August 2013

Jeffrey Jeturian’s “Ekstra” (Review): “The Always Triumphant Vilma Santos and How the Big Plays It Small”

Some critics and moviegoers inaccurately regard Vilma Santos as a thespian more attuned to hysterical type of acting. On the contrary, Santos is equally adept at subtle and impassioned performances.  Perhaps, her more over-the-top characters in films have received much press because majority of them are commercial successes.  It is not even fair to call Santos’ acting style as hysterical. Hysterical acting is different from physical acting. The former is purely bad and lazy acting, the latter is brought about by character study and full commitment to the character, body and soul. 

In a way, Santos can be compared to Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange; both thespians employ their entire body to bring out the internal turmoil of their characters if necessary.  Santos impassioned performance in classic films such as “Broken Marriage” and “Relasyon” demands certain explosiveness.  Santos has always played the fighter, never the silent suffering victim.  Even powerless, Santos’ characters have trudged on despite obvious defeat.  She has always embodied the ferocious female spirit, which I grew up witnessing from the strong females in my family. Fight, survive at all cost.  Similarly, Santos can also quietly stand still and let her face do the exposition, “Sister Stella L.” is a perfect example.

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Rating: 4/5
In both commercially melodramatic and critically acclaimed films, all of the characters in Santos wide repertoire refused to go without a good fight.  I have heard other critics call her the “feminists’ actor,” but do not take our word for it, you need to watch her films to verify that.

In her latest movie, “Ekstra” (The Bit Player), Santos is back to form after her commercially successful but critically disappointing horror film, “The Healing.”  Santos plays Loida, a bit player dreaming of becoming a star despite working in the industry for so long. At first glance, Santos seemed to be miscast as a bit player because she is too fair and beautiful to stay a bit player that long; however, thanks to Jeffrey Jeturian’s clever direction, Santos transcends the obvious.  The Santos celebrity persona disappears and we see the face of a bit player being used as a mere tool by an industry hell bent on producing crap.  Loida’s triumph lies in Jeturian’s blatant critique of the industry that exploits people for commercial purposes. Loida is not just a real character, she is a symbol. The delightful irony of “Ekstra” is using one of the biggest stars in the industry to play it small.

I have always loved Jeturian’s brand of satire ever since “Tuhog.” Thankfully, he is back to his old witty self in “Ekstra.” It is still not “Tuhog,” but we get the sardonic humor.
Playing varied roles in films such as Darna, Rubia Servios, Sister Stella L., Burlesk Queen, and Broken Marriage. Rationale for the use of non-free media, click this.

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