Sunday, November 2, 2014

Antoinette Jadaone's "Beauty in a Bottle" - In Pursuit of Beauty and Youth

Vilma (Assunta de Rossi) is a hotshot advertising creative director who has been in the business for 20 years.  When a new anti-aging product requires fresh ideas from progressive young minds, Vi's time-tested acumen is put to a test. Will she be as contemporary as brazen new rookie and younger colleague Tanya (Ellen Adarna) who's expected to clinch the Belo product? Her boss Santi (Carmi Martin) isn't promising her the account just yet.

Meanwhile, upcoming actress Estelle Suarez (Angelica Panganiban) is fighting a seemingly losing battle with the bulge. Her co-star Empress (Empress Schuck) is stealing the spotlight from her.

When Estelle is pitted against Empress for a lucrative product endorsement, it didn't even take the competition 5 minutes to clinch the deal. During Estelle's go-see/auditions, she is subjected to more embarrassment that reduced her to a shrinking mess. How will she grab the project from Empress' arrogant grasp?

Judith Madamba (Angeline Quinto) is an aggressive realtor, selling 10 units in six months. But her enterprising successes don't translate to her personal life. She's weighed down by issues of self-esteem. In fact, she feels she doesn't "fit" in the social circle of his boyfriend Pocholo's (Tom Rodriguez) wealthy family. She just wants to impress them so. In her sheer paranoia, she ends up making a fool of herself.  

Three disparate lives intersect in Antoinette Jadaone's rollicking "Beauty in a Bottle", a cinematic dissertation on people's penchant for physical beauty and corporeal perfection. While we aim to be paragons of pulchritude, we forget that we have limitations we need to embrace to be able to truly find happiness and contentment.

In brisk, effortless strides, the movie is both insightful and downright hilarious, reminiscent of the verve of Ishmael Bernal's "Working Girls" made 3 decades ago.

The movie is buoyed by its finger-snapping pace and exceptional performances from its zany cast, particularly Angelica Panganiban as the eternally insecure actress Estelle and Assunta de Rossi as the aging advertising executive Vilma. Panganiban's audition scene and her shooting sequences ("Come back to the young and beautiful you.") are nothing short of brilliant, and are testaments of Panganiban's indisputable versatility. Quite frankly, it's hard to think of someone else who can evenly shift from drama to comedy, with flying colors in both.

De Rossi displays impeccable comic delivery and timing as she rolls with the narrative punches. What have Assunta and Alessandra's parents been feeding the girls that turned these siblings into spectacular actresses, one wonders? Empress plays a deliciously scornful version of herself, and comes up with one the year's most illustrious cameos, the consummate rival to a magnificent Panganiban.

How did Angeline Quinto fare? Not so badly actually. Though visibly awkward in a few scenes, Quinto breezes through her role with wanton enthusiasm, valiant enough to take thespic risks. This, after all, isn't her forte. But with temperament written to suit her personality, it's hard to make a false move. This is Quinto's card to a legitimate acting career.

Framed by thoughtful "steps to attaining success" (Step 1 - Just say yes; Step 4.1 - Know your product; Step 10 - Research, research, research; Step 48 - Check on your competition; Step 28.1 - Be better than your competition; Step 39 - Savor your success), the movie percolates with winking charm and raillery. It is provocative, upbeat, and pokes fun on our misperceptions and insecurities. It allows scrutiny of our thoughts on beauty and youth. How far are we willing to pursue them? Do they guarantee success? Or happiness? The film also gathers some of contemporary cinema's most brilliant and dynamic artists: Chris Martinez, Whammy Alcazaren ("Islands", "Colossal"), Atty. Joji Alonso, and of course director Jadaone ("Six Degrees of Separation from Lilia Cuntapay").

This collaboration results into one of the year's most exuberantly exhilarating films. What's better? It screened to a good and receptive crowd. I like that. Great films deserve no less. This allows film makers to churn out more of quality cinema. As a paying audience, this is money well spent.

Gorgeous Tom plays Angeline's boyfriend Pocholo.


Anonymous said...

I love that there's a current wave of fresh, smart, consistent filmmakers (or should I say auteurs) like Tonet Jadaone and Sigrid Andrea Bernardo. If you girls go on like this we just may just one day see the demise of Deramas and his ilk of Moronic film posers. Which is always a good thing.


- Juan

Cathy Pena said...

Unfortunately, Juan, Deramas films make a lot of money. That means he will have a long career if he keeps this up. Thanks to "poor taste" spread all over the land. :)

But you know what? "Moron5.2" had a very small audience when I watched it on its first day. I was surprised.

Anonymous said...

I've long heard talks about a lot of alleged blockbusters aren't really making a lot in theatres. But I guess big studios put their marketing machine on it and it looks like everyone watched it. I hear they make money on video distribution on various fronts.

I suspect that only the MMFF films get a good shot at getting box office gold. It seems to be a ritual to a lot of Filipinos, watching films in the xmas season. and it's usually the shitty ones they pick the most. and the whole family is there!


Cathy Pena said...

MMFF is a freak of nature and a measure of the Pinoy taste - or the lack of it. ;)