The Fabulous Filipino Brothers
by Tori Hanes
The Fabulous Filipino Brothers— by writer, director, and star Dante Basco—follows the separate journeys and (sometimes misguided) decisions of four first-generation Filipino American siblings leading up to a major family wedding.
Through the use of dedicated vignettes, each brother (played by Basco’s real siblings Dionysio, Derek and Darion) showcases deep-rooted differences while shedding light on the uniformity of the first-generation immigrant experience.
Where the film succeeds, it flourishes. It finds power in sincerity, primarily thanks to Basco’s decision to use his family as actors to mirror their real-life identities. The lack of professional acting stamina is easily forgiven when the realism contributes so heavily to the overall charm of the film.
Basco’s themes of generational identity and cultural disconnect are best explored where he least forces it. The time dedicated to the warmth and humor in the family’s interpersonal relationships is where the film finds its footing. The best example is oldest brother Dayo’s (Derek Basco) vignette. In it, Dayo dabbles in illegal activities to help finance the wedding—with his geriatric grandmother riding shotgun. The comedy from the setup is enjoyable, but pairing familial responsibilities with Dayo’s individual journey hits the tonal stride that makes this piece unique.
Allowing vignettes to anchor the script leads to unbalance. Two of the four vignettes get lost in clunky sincerity—caused, in part, by the disproportionate amount of time they’re given. Second oldest brother Duke (Dante Basco) returns to the Philippines to explore his roots and connect to a disjunct part of his cultural identity. Here Basco concentrates too hard on overarching themes without investing in the narrative to fully connect the audience.
During brother David’s (Dionysio Basco) time, an uninteresting love story unfolds. This segment also feels overlong and again attempts too literally to represent the figurative. The concentration on ideas without narrative execution ultimately knocks the plot off track.
The film’s valleys don’t entirely diminish its peaks. When Basco is able to let the story breathe organically, the overall piece is heightened. Where The Fabulous Filipino Brothers missteps, it counterbalances with charm and warmth only family can provide.