The Butcher | Kara Mia: Riveting but Sloppy

PHOTOS: @barbaraforteza on IG

PHOTOS: @barbaraforteza on IG

All those decades when reading komiks was still part of the Philippine pop culture, producers scrambled for the rights to those illustrated stories. Darna came from komiks – and so did Dyesebel.

Toward the late 1970s, komiks writer Jim Fernandez churned out several fantasy stories for various publications. There was Kambal sa Uma that was eventually turned into a movie – with Rio Locsin playing a woman who could transform into a rat. (ABS-CBN had a TV version three decades later with Melissa Ricks in the lead.)

And then there was Zuma, which also became a film with a sequel (Anak ni Zuma). Max Laurel was cast as the snake man in both versions.

Around this period, there was also a komiks series called Cara. The main character was a woman with three heads. But unlike Kambal and Zuma, Cara was never turned into a film because there were no special effects suited for that story line then.

Today, thanks to the advancement in digital technology, GMA had been airing since February of this year a fantasy series about a woman who has two faces. Airing right after 24 Oras, the show’s title is Kara Mia.

In the story, an encanto named Iswal (Mike Tan) falls in love with Aya (Carmina Villarruel who was all set to marry Arthur (John Estrada). Unknown to Aya, the invisible encanto was able to satisfy his lust on her while vacationing in Arthur’s Bacolod hometown.

After the wedding, she gives birth to a girl with two faces. They grow up to be Barbie Forteza (as Kara, the face in the front ) and Mika de la Cruz (as the extra face in the back) and they constantly have to deal with the issue of how society will react to them (violently – as revealed in the series’ recent episodes).     

As the lead stars, both Barbie and Mika do very well as performers (they played sisters in Ang Darling Kong Aswang a decade or so ago). In the case of Barbie that doesn’t come as a surprise anymore since she had already won critical acclaim as a teen actress (with Urian nominations to boot) in the indie films Mariquina and Tuos (with no less than Nora Aunor as co-star).

It is Mika who is the revelation here. As the evil twin face, she could expedite the retirement of Gladys Reyes as contravida. Mika is petite and lovely and has porcelain skin that could rival Vilma Santos’ Eskinol complexion. But for all that prettiness, she makes Donald Trump look cuddly and adorable, especially in scenes where she makes life miserable for her twin sister.

Another effective contravida in the series is Glydel Mercado as Julia, the other woman who relentlessly pursues Arthur (but pray tell me why – he is a nincompoop). Glydel is wickedly delicious in all her scenes – and I mean all. Even her sidekick Betty (April Gustillo) is hilarious and viewers relish their tandem. 

Oh, yes, Ai-ai de las Alas is also part of the show in a desperate role. For all the accolades she has won, including successive best actress nominations from the Urian, GMA casts her as a tree in this program. As Reynara who dispenses black magic, there is only one way to describe her performance here as a tree: wooden. 

Ai-ai’s situation, however, is not so bad compared to what John and Carmina are made to do in Kara Mia. Both are fine performers and I will always watch anything with Carmina in it. But given the way their roles are written, you’d change channels when you see them. In this series, they are the stupidest father-mother team in the history of parenting. When the life of their youngest child, Star, was put in danger, they come to her rescue like they were on a sightseeing tour. Maybe it was in the editing. But definitely, there was no sense of urgency there. 

In another instance, while being chased by a manic Julia, daughter Kara makes a desperate call to her mother, but she – being the dumbest mom of the year – doesn’t pick up the phone.

The most unforgivable part happens in the mob scene where an angry crowd is out to get Kara and Mia (already physically separated by then). Here is the scenario: We have two girls – one fully clothed, in jeans at that, while the other is practically naked. Guess who they choose to save first.

Through no fault of their own, John and Carmina are losing viewers’ respect as artists. Occasionally, Carmina is given solid scenes to execute and she delivers marvelously. But most of the time, she comes out weak and tepid – no thanks to the half-baked material given to her in the series.

This is a pity because Carmina is an exceptional actress and Kara Mia is a show with a lot of potentials. I suspect that the people behind the program have difficulty with the daily grind. It must be hell for them to come out with a new episode every day.

Even the direction of Dominic Zapata leaves much to be desired. Zapata’s work in My Husband’s Lover was very impressive. It was well-paced, relaxed and even managed to show the various layers of human behavior. But here in Kara Mia, he is like a tailor who accepts a rush order job for a three-piece suit and has to finish it in 24 hours. As a result, his work is uninspired.

The editing of the show is also a technical nightmare – with absolutely no respect for time lapses. Perhaps the production people spend so much time putting together on one head the two faces of the lead stars through computer-generated work. But believe me even the special effects they offer are crude and unimpressive.

Generally, the show is exciting and has great entertainment value – although it has yet to topple its rival, Probinsyano, in the ratings game. But it is shabbily done and very inconsistent when it comes to production quality. On some days, you can’t wait for the next episode. But there are instances when you realize you just wasted precious time on a series that doesn’t even bother cover its loopholes.

Of course, the series is still worth following. But it could actually be more addictive if its quality were more consistent. The story’s twists and turns are very much appreciated by the viewers, in fact.  Sadly, the presentation is not as seamless as it should be. 

Like its main character, the show Kara Mia also has two faces: the riveting and the sloppy.

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