‘ON Vodka, Beers & Regrets’ is this year’s first bonafide hit. It was shown in theaters for about a month. At one point, Viva was already showing their new release, “Untrue”, but there were no viewers watching it, so “On Vodka” was brought back and regained its theaters.
Since the movie stars Bela Padilla and JC Santos, whose previous films “100 Tula Para Kay Stella” and “The Day After Valentine” both did well at the tills, you’d initially think this is another romantic drama like their previous pairings. But as the narrative goes along, you’d realize that the movie is not a romance but more of a character study involving Bela’s character.
Bela is Jane, a former child actress who later got lead roles, but is now experiencing setbacks in her career after she got involved in a video scandal. She turns to alcohol to deal with her problems and has actually become an alcoholic.
She then meets, Francis (JC), the vocalist of a band who once took good care of her when she got so drunk, bringing her to a hotel but not taking advantage of her. It’s obvious he is attracted to her despite her drinking problem, but she’s nonchalant about it. When she’s under the influence, she becomes reckless and forgets everything.
Writer-director Irene Villamor said at the presscon that the movie is inspired by the Hollywood flick “When A Man Loves a Woman” with Meg Ryan as the alcoholic wife of Andy Garcia. “On Vodka” adheres closely to the storyline of the movie that inspired it.
Although they’re not husband and wife here, Bela and JC go through what Meg and Andy went through in their movie. Meg undergoes rehab and Bela also has a scene where she speaks in a group therapy about her addiction to alcohol. Both movie also end on an upbeat note. Bela and JC are reconciled, just like Meg and Andy, and it seems there’s hope for them in the horizon.
The difference is that Meg and Andy went through a more complicated story as they have two children to contend with and Andy becomes the main caretaker of their home and children while Meg is undergoing rehab. He practically becomes a co-dependent in Meg’s becoming an alcoholic and later had to seek his own support group for spouses of alcoholics.
JC didn’t have to undergo through such complications as “On Vodka” is actually much more simple in its goals. The happy ending, actually, feels rushed. After all the “kagagahan” that Bela’s Jane did in the movie, it was quickly resolved with an all’s well that ends well conclusion after she is shown confessing to her addiction in her group therapy session.
At one and a half hours, the whole thing feels abbreviated and Bela’s Jane gets her reprieve so easily. You get the feeling that the stories of addiction you’ve seen in such drama anthologies as “Maalaala Mo Kaya” and “Magpakailanman” are actually told in a more engrossing manner with their more embroidered storylines of characters going through such a similar dilemma. Maybe they should have gotten Baron Geisler, who’ll be a very credible consultant.
Bela Padilla is quite convincing as Jane, embracing fully the quirks and vulnerability of her role, but this is not the first time she’s seen playing such a part. She also played an alcoholic in “Mananita” by Paul Soriano, which is so slow moving that she is shown consuming two bottles of strong beer nonstop in one long tedious sequence.
Her role there as a female soldier who agonizes in her desire to take revenge on the man who killed her parents and burned her face years ago, but chickens out when she finally gets the chance to get back at him, is a bit more involving than her role as Jane.
This is Bela’s third movie with Direk Irene, after “Camp Sawi” (where she also has a convincing drunken scene) and “Meet Me in St. Gallen” (another one of those tortured love stories about an unfulfilled love affair.)
JC Santos knows he’s just playing glorified support here to Bela and he tackles his role with complete understanding, generously giving way to Bela to shine in all her more demanding scenes.
Giving good support are Kean Cipriano as Jane’s ex-boyfriend with whom she gets wasted again and Matteo Guidicelli as a villainous character that detracts from his leading man aura. He comes off better as the profligate drug trafficker in “Mina Anud” who acts like a minor Mafia don. But if you want a truly unflinching look at the effects of alcoholism, you should watch “The Lost Weekend” that won Oscars for best picture, best director for Billy Wilder and best actor for Ray Milland. There’s also “Leaving Las Vegas” that won an Oscar for Nicolas Cage and the harrowing “Days of Wine and Roses” with Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick giving tour de force performances as a husband and wife with an addictive personality that makes them slaves of alcohol.