Grandpa is Dead -- Film Review

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PALM SPRINGS -- A family's sorrows provides a great deal of amusement in "Grandpa is Dead," an admittedly entertaining, if uneven, tragicomedy by Soxie H. Topacio.

The Philippines' official entry for foreign-language Oscar consideration, the film takes its cue from an indelible event from the writer-director's own childhood -- his grandfather's passing and the traditional week-long wake that followed it.

There's no shortage of dysfunction among the Hernandez clan's five adult children who, despite their professed differences, share a propensity for fainting when overcome with emotion.

Over the course of the closely-knit seven-day period, unresolved tensions will be addressed and deeply held secrets will be revealed -- and, oh yeah, they'll also manage to find a bit of time to mourn their dearly-departed dad.

While Topacio demonstrates a keen talent for tart repartee and pokes a great deal of fun at the expense of his culture's more unusual traditions and superstitions, he's less adept at fluidly transitioning to the picture's many introspective, emotional moments.

Ironically, the pace is notably dragged down by sequences involving the siblings' drag queen brother and his flamboyant extended family.

But Topacio has an undeniable flair for presenting universal family dynamics at their worst and best, with a spirited energy and sensibility that brings to mind early Almodovar.

Venue: Palm Springs International Film Festival
Cast: Gina Alajar, Elizabeth Oropesa, Dick Israel
Director-screenwriter: Soxie H. Topacio
Producer: Antonio P. Tuviera
Director of photography: Journalie Payonan
Music: Noel Cabangon
Editor: Danny Anonuevo
Sales agent: APT Entertainment
No MPAA rating, 92 minutes
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