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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Sep 20, 2012

"The Mistress" Review: Chief Asset Is Bea Alonzo'S Beautifully Understated Performance

LOCAL VIEWERS really love taboo subjects like adultery and infidelity that’s why “No Other Woman” was a big hit last year. This time, it’s “The Mistress”, the 10th anniversary offering of the John Lloyd Cruz-Bea Alonzo love team, that’s the current blockbuster. We’ve seen it and its biggest asset is certainly the superior acting of all the major performers: Bea in the career-defining title role, John Lloyd as the young architect who loves her even if she’s a mistress, Hilda Koronel and Ronaldo Valdez as John Lloyd’s parents. It’s so easy to warm up to all of them, including Anita Linda as the senile grandma, a role she also just played in “Santa Nina” with Coco Martin.

But make no mistake. The movie is very soap, a very well made glossy commercial melodrama very clear in its tearjerking intentions of pleasing the audience even if the conclusion is not the usual Star Cinema ending where the lovers predictably end up in each other’s arms. It reminds us of the sudsy film about a mistress, Fannie Hurst’ “Back Street”, filmed three times but the version we saw was that of Susan Hayward in the 60s. In both cases, the take on the mistress is very sympathetic. You root for her even if you know that what she’s doing is wrong.

For further commercial appeal, “The Mistress” is laden with quotations that suckers for this kind of dramatic vehicle will treasure, like “Di dahil gusto mo, makukuha mo” or “Tagalog yan, para maintindihan mo.” It’s also filled with daring scenes charged with erotic tension that are sure to be talked about, like Bea as a tailor getting John Lloyd’s measurements that ends up with his crotch and Bea getting John Lloyd’s hand and ordering him to touch her private parts.

Another scene bound to be talked about is the restaurant scene where all the four characters meet, with Hilda going to town in embarrassing Bea in front of everybody. This is repeated for additional impact in the tailoring shop where Hilda again shames Bea in front of all her co-workers.

There have been past local films about mistresses, but usually, the husband, the wife and the mistress all belong to the same age bracket and it’s actually more of a love triangle movie like the ones Eddie and Lolita Rodriguez with Marlene Dauden did or, later, Vilma Santos and other actors of her generation in films like “Gaano Kadalas ang Minsan”, “Langis at Tubig”, “Relasyon”.

Bea’s role is vastly different as her lover is someone old enough to be her dad or even grandfather. It’s adequately explained how she’s drawn to Ronaldo and even falls in love with him. Bea’s portrayal is elegantly understated but she pours everything she’s got into the risky and challenging role that requires much depth of emotion. She comes out looking not only stunningly beautiful but brilliantly transformed from her teenybopper days. Your heart really aches for her.

John Lloyd’s role exists under the shadow of Bea’s but he manages to be impressive on his own. We can understand when some writers say they’re the new Vilma Santos-Christopher de Leon, never been on in real life but worked well in tandem in the more than 20 films they made together.

We were hoping “The Mistress” would not resort to the most hackneyed way of resolving conflicts in local films: someone clutching his chest and having a heart attack while in the middle of a heated confrontation. But they still did and we felt it’s a letdown. We wish they have cooked up a more satisfying conclusion without anyone dying and where everything is handled in a more sophisticated civilized way.