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By Phil Hall | August 5, 2007

The title character of this Philippine import is a gay 12-year-old who lives with his widower father and thuggish brothers in a Manila slum. Maximo is more than a little effeminate, but his lack of machismo is never commented on by his family, who appreciate his ability to cook and keep a tidy home.

Maximo’s family is involved in petty crime (including stolen cell phone reselling and running a numbers racket), and Maximo has no role in their activities – at least not until he falls in love for the first time. The problem, it seems, is that the object of Maximo’s affections is a handsome and acutely honest young cop who is new to the beat where Maximo’s family operates. The officer shows a sincere paternal interest in the youth, but he becomes suspicious of where Maximo’s household gets its revenue.

To its credit, the film acknowledges Maximo’s orientation as a given fact without making a big deal out of it. But what could have been an offbeat coming-of-age drama is wrecked by a dreary script, sluggish pacing by first-time director Auraeus Solito, and some of the worst acting to find its way before a camera (in this case, a shake DV camera).

The main menace here is young Nathan Lopez as Maximo. Swishing his hips in a catwalk stroll and eyeing the good-looking cop like a glutton eyeing a sandwich, Lopez’s painfully unsubtle hamming makes Maximo into a gay caricature rather than a genuine character. As the law enforcement object of Maximo’s crush, JR Valentin was clearly cast because of how he looked in a tight t-shirt and not for his ability to emote dialogue with any degree of talent.

“The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros” was actually presented as the Philippines entry for the 2006 Oscar competition for Best Foreign-Language Film. If this represents the best of Philippine cinema, I’d hate to see the worst!

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  1. Rich says:

    Have to say this review had me surprised. As uncle to an 11 year-old lad cut from the same pastel-colored, flower-petal-covered cloth as Maximo (swishing gait, girlish mannerisms and all) I take a bit of offense to the notion that Lopez’s performance was caricature.

    In my nephew’s case most of that stuff seems to just come naturally and the rest is him imitating his favorite models and actresses. Though, to be fair, if someone had told me a decade ago that I’d know an openly gay, effeminate, cross-dressing 11 year-old boy that confidently bounds down every street like its a runway and knows more about Rita Hayworth than most 60 year olds… my doubt levels would have been nigh on astronomical. Still, it happens. Worldwide apparently.

    As for the film. I enjoyed it a lot. I was turned on to it by my brother-in law (father of the aforementioned nephew) who was bemused by the protagonist’s more than passing similarity to his son. I found the pacing was well in keeping with a character-driven dramatic piece like this. The old script writing contrivance, “If you show a gun in act one, you’d better use it by act three,” was deftly used as foreshadowing. That move typically leads to a predictable conclusion in a lot of films, here though the climax of the film (which I won’t give away) turns that completely around in a satisfying manner, playing out in a way that I personally didn’t see coming (which is always a treat).

    All in all I thought it a charming, sometimes funny, sometimes bleak film that deserves any accolades it may have garnered. That this movie was submitted for Oscar consideration isn’t something I sneer at. Had it won I think it would’ve been deserved (being that some Oscar nominees and winners are far worse IMO).

    The raking of Nathan Lopez over the coals as being hammy and portraying a caricature is miles away from my perception of both actor and character. The one star review above does a very good bit of cinema a big disservice.

  2. Antome says:

    Hey don’t pity the poverty of means in making a film, today you can make a good movie with a few hundred of euros. Are they worse than Cameron, lol let’s not envy cameron, please.
    I can’t being convinced all gays in Philippines are like Maximo, and this not to imply any negative judgement about his tender femininity. Maximo is a kind of gay boy, like there are many types of heteros, you may be right to say, ratherm that this type of visual aesthetic homosexuality is much more accepted than in north western society, and this is almost all about good, “almost” because I suspect that, partly, underage sexual tourism has its role in this acceptance, and this makes me sorry.
    So I was saying that some gays are masculine, they feel themselves as masculine boys, just attracted to other boys, the objects of their attraction might be a more feminine boys, making the “meta-straight”, or boyish boys like them making them “pure” homosexuals. Some feel more “feminine”, and are attracted to the masculine or to another feminine (meta-lesbian). Maximo, is instead, very close to the transgender hue of this complex spectrum of emotions, identity and inclinations, so they like to mix “ambiguous” clothes on purpose, but fundamentally he wants to be more of a woman or play with his/her identity. To counter, many if not most crossdressers are straight, so there are common misconceptions, about feminine appearence and partner choices, as appearence is mostly cultural, in the glam rock, goth, metal and emo style, it is normal for a guy to use eyeliner, sometimes even eyeshadow and lipstick and to paint his nails, not to talk about pixie hairstyles and whatnot. Let’s catch up later.

  3. gee says:

    I can quite see the cultural divide here. I know this isn’t the case in North America (I’ve worked in Grand Rapids for six years and Toronto for two years) but I’m from the Philippines and I can tell you that Lopez’s portrayal of Maximo Oliveros is not a caricature as that is the way most gays in our country behave—overly and overtly feminine. The same goes for Japan actually.

    For me, this is mediocre film, though I wouldn’t go far as to give it a one-star rating and I’d personally rate it higher than Crash but to each his own. It is very rare in my country to find fine films, most of them art house films as the mainstream films are mostly mindless dramas and comedies, which is why Maximo Oliveros is being overestimated.

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