Review: Antoinette Jadaone's BEAUTY IN A BOTTLE, A Witty and Self-Deprecating Comedy Directed At Beauty Consumerism

Review: Antoinette Jadaone's BEAUTY IN A BOTTLE, A Witty and Self-Deprecating Comedy Directed At Beauty Consumerism
Six Degrees of Separation From Lilia Cuntapay (2011), Antoinette Jadaone's first feature, revolves around a real-life character named Lilia Cuntapay, a bit player who has become some sort of celebrity for portraying ghouls and witches in a number of Filipino horror movies. 

It follows the fictional situation of her finally getting a prestigious acting nomination after decades of slaving away namelessly for the film industry. Designed as a hilarious mockumentary that is grounded on fun pop culture elements, the film nevertheless touches on issues that result in very real emotional heft.

Beauty in a Bottle, Jadaone's follow-up to Six Degrees of Separation From Lilia Cuntapay, is more straightforward. The film follows three women, a late-thirties creative director, an overweight starlet, and the not-so-pretty girlfriend of a wealthy boy-next-door, whose lives would temporarily revolve around a newly-launched beauty product.

Vilma (Assunta de Rossi), who has spent the best of her youth designing promotional campaigns for an ad agency, is forced to come up with a brilliant campaign for rejuvenating pills when suddenly faced with competition from a much-younger creative (Ellen Adarna). Estelle (Angelica Panganiban), who is under a lot of scrutiny for gaining a lot of unnecessary weight, is in the running to be the celebrity endorser for the beauty pills, urging her to desperately lose the extra pounds just to make the cut. Judith (Angeline Quinto), insecure of her looks, decides to try out the beauty pills to give her the confidence to face the family of her boyfriend (Tom Rodriguez).

Beauty in a Bottle pokes fun at female insecurities, vanity, consumerism, the facile virtues of show business, and how all of those very current realities and more are all intertwined with each other. Jadaone's comedy is thankfully far from judgmental. Despite the numerous jokes, the film never feels like it is positioning itself from the point of view of an unaffected stranger looking from afar.

Jadaone's gags seem like products of actual self-doubts, exaggerated to a certain extent to generate more laughs. A lot of the voice-overs and sight gags that have been designed to draw out laughter touch on everyday impressions of what other people think that hold an uncomfortable but nevertheless amusing level of truth. While a lot of the jokes seem to extend more than they should, the very fact that they never feel like they have been manufactured by a mind insulated from the issues is the reason why the film's humor is so effective. It is self-deprecating, and rooted not on the hilarious misfortunes of others but on the palpable truths about the self.

Jadaone's grasp on her subject is sublime. Her characters are definitely and unabashedly stereotypes, but she does not stop at crafting fiction out of hollow characters. Like Lilia Cuntapay of her debut film, she makes use of actual celebrities who possess the essential quirks of her three heroines to magnify the characters and to somewhat ground them to reality.

De Rossi, who in the peak of her career graced films that prominently feature her desirable curves, brings a very credible fear of fading into obscurity in her portrayal of an ad woman on the verge of being overshadowed by younger and fresher talents. Panganiban, whose roundish face makes her an anomaly within an industry that puts a premium over prominent cheekbones and small waistlines, gamely allows herself to be the punch line of the glaring wrong that is hilariously pervading show business. Quinto, the winner of a singing contest whose entry into the nasty world of show business has led her to be criticized for her average looks, gives the comically-portrayed frustrations and uncertainties of her character a relatable perspective.

Even the supporting cast like Vicki Belo, the owner of a cosmetics empire, and Empress Schuck, a former teen star who specialized in playing innocent and harmless lasses, are unafraid to stretch their real-life personalities to add layers and dimensions into the comedy. Beauty in a Bottle succeeds because it is not afraid to thresh out the awkward and ugly, both outside and inside, to manufacture humor. It is a concerted effort at self-deprecation, making it less painful for the audience to join in the fun.

By the film's end, nobody is left unblemished and without guilt of the faults that the film directs at. At the same time, nobody is left uncharmed by the film's boundless wit.
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Antoinette JadaoneComedyFilipinoPhilippines

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