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Serbis (Service) (2008)


Average Rating: 6.8/10
Reviews Counted: 28
Fresh: 23
Rotten: 5

Critics Consensus: This darkly comic family drama finds ways of being viscerally graphic and intellectually stimulating at the same time.

Average Rating: 7.4/10
Reviews Counted: 11
Fresh: 10
Rotten: 1

Critics Consensus: This darkly comic family drama finds ways of being viscerally graphic and intellectually stimulating at the same time.


Average Rating: 3.1/5
User Ratings: 577


Movie Info

A struggling family from the provinces discovers that morality can be both absolute and relative as they suffer each others' pains and vices while awaiting the court decision in the mother's charges of bigamy against her estranged husband. The Pineda family operates a ramshackle movie house specializing in second-run sex flicks: 58-year-old family matriarch Nanay Flor oversees the operation while trading shifts in the ticket booth with daughter Nayda, son-in-law Lando, and adopted daughter … More

R (for sexual content, nudity and language)
Art House & International , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
Armando Lao
In Theaters:
Mar 9, 2010
Regent Releasing


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Critic Reviews for Serbis (Service)

All Critics (29) | Top Critics (12) | Fresh (23) | Rotten (5)

While it has its gag-inducing moments, director Brillante Mendoza's film about a three-generational family that lives in and operates a rundown porn theatre is more sweet than twisted.

Full Review… | May 22, 2009
Globe and Mail
Top Critic

You have been advised; proceed accordingly.

Full Review… | April 9, 2009
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Top Critic

Part-telenovela, part outlandish screwball comedy, part soft-porno, but completely without a road map, Serbis evokes Pedro Almodóvar, Tennessee Williams, and 1940s and '50s Hollywood.

Full Review… | February 26, 2009
Boston Globe
Top Critic

Serbis has the feel of a documentary, but a documentary can't accomplish what "Serbis" does: Take us to a corner of the world where sex and regret are so intimately entwined.

Full Review… | February 20, 2009
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

This isn't a family -- or a film -- you'll easily forget.

Full Review… | January 30, 2009
New York Daily News
Top Critic

The Filipino movie Serbis is gentle, bawdy and at times rambunctiously, ticklishly rude.

Full Review… | January 30, 2009
New York Times
Top Critic

The number of characters involved leaves the plotlines strung out and little emotion for the audience to cling to.

Full Review… | July 4, 2009
Eye for Film

film feels like it has more to say but can't get the wording right

Full Review… | July 1, 2009

A gritty little drama that leaves you feeling like you might need a shower.

Full Review… | May 22, 2009
Jam! Movies

That calling-attention-to-the-idea-that-we're-watching-a-movie device is at odds with the realism of the story, but it does a nice job of illustrating the central question of Serbis: Which is going to fall apart first, the Family or the family?

Full Review… | April 10, 2009
St. Paul Pioneer Press

Enthralling. A vivid portrait of a family seemingly involved in only their own problems who have been infected by the filth and enervation around them.

Full Review… | March 20, 2009
Windy City Times

Unflinching, graphic depictions of illicit sex and boil-lancing are memorable, but the family's moral ambiguities and sense of lost prestige are what fascinate the most.

Full Review… | February 27, 2009

A unique and artistic treatment of gritty family survival but one that will turn away viewers with its carnal setting and sand-blasted treatment of the human condition.

Full Review… | February 5, 2009
Monsters and Critics

Often drags with too many poorly developed characters its convoluted, unfocused plot. If it were more character-driven and had a sharper screenplay, it would have been a much more captivating drama.

Full Review… | February 1, 2009
NYC Movie Guru

A scraggly, messy, often aimless, and yet consistently amusing and engaging work of black comedy-cum-social-realism.

Full Review… | January 30, 2009
The Screengrab

Specialty audiences may appreciate this downbeat Filipino drama about an impoverished family trying to hold it together while running a porn theatre, but its unvarnished sex scenes won't play for mainstream tastes.

Full Review… | January 29, 2009
Film Journal International

As a twitchily sensational series of interconnected images, it's an awesome nugget of faux-trash gold.

Full Review… | January 28, 2009
New York Press

The Filipino answer to Slumdog Millionaire!

Full Review… | January 27, 2009

Audience Reviews for Serbis (Service)


I'm not sure what director Brillante Mendoza was thinking. Maybe the intentions were honorable, focusing on graphic realism with an unflinching eye for detail, but the auteuristic style is small compensation for the utter lack of substance and motivation.

The setting is a run-down porn theater in the slums of Angeles (Philippines). Serbis takes us behind the scenes, from one amoral act to the next, exposing the poverty and hopelessness of those involved. Okay, I get it. If you go through the countryside turning over rocks you're bound to see a few creepy-crawly things. What else would one expect? The shortcomings of the characters seem to be the apex of the story. There's little else to latch on to. I found myself wanting the plot to go somewhere but it just doesn't. The technique is sound but, on the whole, the film is little more than tabloid cinema. Given Mendoza's reputation, I was completely disappointed.

Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer

[font=Century Gothic]"Serbis" is about family which is also the name of the dilapidated adult theater(bathrooms flood, goats invade, etc) in Manila that is owned by Flor(Gina Pareno) who is pursuring legal action against her husband that could net him at least two years in jail. Complicating this is her son planning to testify on his behalf . While most of the family helps out in one way or another, her daughter Nayda(Jacklyn Jose) manages the theater and sells tickets while her young son runs loose.[/font]

[font=Century Gothic]The theater shows pornography of a heterosexual inclination but almost all of the clientele are gay men who use the darkness to have sex away from a government that at the very least frowns upon such activity. To punctuate this, there is a religious procession towards the end.[/font]

[font=Century Gothic]All of which is fine and good. If only there was more of substance, then "Serbis" might have truly had something going. Instead, there are too many shots going up and down staircases and a disturbing subplot about a boil. Next time, stop for a second and catch your breath.[/font]

Walter M.

Super Reviewer


I have to say that Brillante Mendoza's "Serbis" is slightly better than his more renowned(and at the same time, denounced) "Kinatay". In some ways, "Serbis'" cinematography, acting, and subplots were the collective product of what could be Brillante's personal vision of Philippine society and familial relations that has been distributed rationally to his other earlier films: "Tirador's" biting humor, "Kaleldo's" character interactions and mild sepia cinematography, the escalating darkness that his later film "Kinatay" has embarked on, and even "Masahista's" literal sexuality. The ensemble cast was also very impressive in their uncanny degree of suppressing any screen inhibitions, be it about showing their skin, or acting as a credible, functioning family while immersing themselves into the decaying backdrop of a filthy 'bold' theater. It was almost unbelievable for the whole cast to pull off such a film without going as far as the extremities Nagisa Oshima has reached and the cost of what cinematic taboo he had broken to show a sociopolitical allegory. Brillante Mendoza has also able to incorporate his usual fascination of religious traditions; imageries that might have been inserted just for the sake of it, or can also be visual antidotes to the sinful displays on his films. Notable performances were by Gina Pareno as the theater-inhabiting family's matriarch, and Julio Diaz as the awkwardly unknowing husband of Layda(played by Jaclyn Jose). It's just refreshing to see a film that has brought a pitiful place such as a decaying 'bomba' moviehouse into cinematic life(a place whose only common attribution is to "Imbestigador"), put it in the center of a neorealist drama, and let it's pathetic and dissident inhabitants dwell on the establishment's sleazy imperfections; an uncanny likeness to their own lives indeed.

Ivan Descartin

Super Reviewer

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