The script is able to deliver an engaging plot because it has a realistic approach to civil adultery. The perks and consequences are handled with equal measure. Mistresses enjoy a luxurious lifestyle because of their influential, powerful, and rich lovers, but they have no rights.
The characters are not pegged into stereotypical roles. The movie focuses on five women who are fully aware of what they’re doing and the life they have chosen. Ina gets schooled on the Etiquette of Mistresses by Georgia who lives by tried and tested arcane rules, while her impulsive friend Chloe pushes the new girl to demand more.
The cast made a commendable risk in taking these roles, especially when a number of Filipinos complained about kabit movies in the cinema. The older actresses did a good job but Kim Chiu takes the spotlight with an earnest performance.
Deft directorial choices and production design depict the world of loneliness and emotional exile.
All of this makes for compelling stuff that is also a mature social commentary on gender, politics, and infidelity.
The movie doesn’t treat its characters as cheap whores or homewreckers with Twitter-worthy one-liners and doesn’t glorify them either. In one scene, Chloe is not solely blamed by the wife of a philandering husband. The sad truth is, no matter who is legal or not, they are both deemed replaceable. While Chloe and her friends like to believe that they belong in a secret world, they are merely invisible not unknown.
The movie also reflects the double standard of infidelity that is entrenched in the Philippine culture. In one line, Georgia summarizes the hypocrisy of legislators who are against divorce and the RH bill while making no effort to reform the penal code revisions on adultery, which allows married men to freely cheat on their wives and sire illegitimate children as long as they keep it hidden. It is worth noting that Stella Garcia’s story, which the movie focuses on towards the end, resembles the Grace Ibuna controversy.
This is where the movie sags under the weight of mainstream expectations.
Filipino blockbuster movies, who are aware of the target audience’s needs for escapism because it’s not really fun in the Philippines, are prone to wishful-thinking cliches.
Etiquette for Mistresses undoes what it has achieved in the third act as the characters resort to aiding and abetting a crime to stage a happy-ending. It’s pretty obvious that the cameos were personal choices as the two of the most handsome actors in the nation make an appearance.
Still, Etiquette for Mistresses is worth considering because it delivers narrative depth that doesn’t just appeal to the lowest common denominator. Etiquette for Mistresses tackles the reality of adultery through its story and characterization, even if falls apart in the end.
In a country where married women are told to tolerate their philandering husband as long as he provides for the family, this is an important issue to address as even the law discriminates against legal wives. The movie tastefully tackles the other side of the story and provides useful lessons from women whose shelf life depends on the whims of a man – define yourself, be practical, and leave when you must.
Etiquette for Mistresses
Backed by a nuanced script and good performances, Etiquette for Mistresses is a compelling story with an honest social commentary on adultery.