After film versions of Dreamgirls and Rent, Colma: The Musical feels like a palette cleanser, but don’t expect theater queens to lavish any attention on this unpretentious little story about the relationship between home and our sense of self. Shunning spectacle for truth, the film may look like a shit smear, but it’s bursting with clever rhymes, uncanny observations, and sincere judgments. Way too many teen flicks, good and bad, boost misconceptions that our adolescent sorrows had everything to do with the place where we grew up. With the headlining song “Colma Stays,” there’s a sense the filmmakers will support the same trite nihilism that asks us to shun responsibility for our own unhappiness and keep sticking it to our hometowns, but Colma: The Musical‘s songs are refreshingly built around its characters accounting for the true authorship of their problems. In clever song after clever song—like “Deadwalking,” which has Maribel (L.A. Renigen) and her best gay Rodel (H.P. Mendoza) drawing connections between the “graveyard capital of America” and their depressed identities—we understand the lashing out of the film’s characters as a mode of self-preservation, sympathizing with them until they’ve come to their senses. Maribel, Rodel, and Billy (Jake Moreno) allow their jobs, paramours, and problems with their parents to get in the way of their friendship, and even though they may never speak to each other again after the boys decide to leave Colma—one to nearby San Francisco, the other all the way to New York City—it’s clear they’re on paths toward healing after simply acknowledging the beauty of their humble surroundings. Director Richard Wong lacks the visual imagination to keep all the musical numbers feeling fresh, but it’s not every day a musical incorporates words and phrases like “rigor mortis,” “stinky,” and “crotch on her face” into its DNA in a way that can’t be written off as mere pandering to art-house fags and Green Day aficionados. Mendoza, songwriter and lyricist for the film, attests to the rituals of suburban living with an earnest mix of humor and heartache: Like his pained character in this charmingly DIY creation, there is a sense that he’s going to go places.
- Roadside Attractions
- 99 min
- Richard Wong
- H.P. Mendoza
- Jake Moreno, H.P. Mendoza, L.A. Renigen, Sigrid Sutter, Brian Raffi, Gigi Guizado, Larry Soriano, Paul Kolsanoff, David Scott Keller, Allison Torneros, Paula Baldin, Jim Wierzba, Kat Kneisel
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