Movie review: 'On Vodka, Beers and Regrets' is anti-rom-com and that's good

Fred Hawson

Posted at Feb 07 2020 01:12 PM

Bela Padilla and JC Santos star in 'On Vodka, Beers and Regrets'

The first team-up of Bela Padilla and JC Santos was in Jason Paul Laxamana's "100 Tula Para Kay Stella" (2017). That was the box office hit of the first Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino (PPP). For the PPP the year after, Laxamana brought his two actors back together again in "The Day After Valentine's" (2018). 

This year, the duo is reunited under the pen and direction of Irene Emma Villamor in yet another dramatic romance "On Vodka, Beers and Regrets." It would be interesting how their characters fare this time around. 

Jane (Bela Padilla) was a successful actress as a child and through her teens. However, after being involved in a scandal with another actor, her career had been on the wane. Since then, she would always take refuge under the influence of a bottle of alcohol, which caused her to make destructive decisions in love and career. 

One day, while having another drinking binge in a bar, she was noticed and befriended by Brisom band frontman Francis (JC Santos) who then helped her get through that night, and several other nights to follow.

Jane was drunk practically the whole movie, maybe 95% from Scene 1. She was catty, unprofessional, reckless, annoying -- very unlikable. The scene of Jane with a bat in the parking lot was suffused with imminent danger. The scene of Jane with a broken shard of wine glass exquisitely dripped with hopeless desperation (cinematographer Pao Orendain at his best). That painfully explicit song "F**king Circumstance" by Pappel was the perfect song to accompany Jane's downward spiral. Amid all that emotional muck, Bela Padilla still managed to shine through with her raw, dedicated performance, bringing out Jane's vulnerability and humanity to fore. 

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In the very supportive role of Francis, JC Santos provided a sweet reliable shoulder and sounding board. Francis had long admired Jane since her breakout film "Friday Nights," but he was now just meeting his crush at the lowest point of her life. He became Jane's breath of fresh air, but in her denial, she did not seem to realize his value. Aside from his consistency in dramatic acting, Santos was also able to show off his singing chops in a couple of articulate songs with the Brisom band, "Waking Lives" and "Pilot," standouts in the film's emo music soundtrack. 

Matteo Guidicelli was a sinister presence as Jane's fellow actor and boyfriend Ronnie. Jas Rodriguez played Kelly, a promising film ingenue who was dangerously treading the same road that Jane was now stuck in. Rio Locsin makes a special appearance as Jane's estranged mother who was herself still recovering from being a wife of an alcoholic. 

Kean Cipriano played Sam, an ex-boyfriend and Jane's major life-altering indiscretion. Cipriano wore another hat in this film as musical scorer, and he made some excellent choices of tunes to accompany key scenes. 

In all three films they had together, Padilla and Santos played characters involved in a complicated angst-filled relationship. However, the angst in this new one was much more intense than the previous two. The depth of alcoholism portrayed by Bela Padilla in this film was approaching the level of "Leaving Las Vegas" (Mike Figgis, 1996) already. This was full-on heavy drama from beginning to end, not for those looking for a feel-good rom-com. 

Once again, writer-director Irene Emma Villamor proved that she was the master of the anti-love story, from "Meet Me in St. Gallen," "Sid and Aya," "Ulan," and now this one. 

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."