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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 15, 2015

Ex With Benefits Review - Med Reps And Doctors Have Reason To Complain

‘EX WITH BENEFITS’ is another movie based on a Wattpad novel. This time, it’s not a romcom but a humorless romantic drama that just fails to involve us a viewer. It’s the first mainstream movie of Gino Santos, very young at 24 years old, who got pretty good acclaim for his indie films about wayward youth, “The Animals” and “#Y”. Will he go the way of Mario Cornejo (an indie director who made an impressive Cinemalaya debut, ‘Big Time’, in 2005 then was immediately asked by Star Cinema to direct a mainstream film, ‘First Day High’, and was never asked again) or Antoinette Jadaone (who made the surprise hit ‘That Thing Called Tadhana’ for Cinema One and was later asked by Star to do “You’re My Boss” and is now doing the endearing hit teleserye, “On the Wings of Love”)?

Coleen Garcia is given her first starring role in “Ex With Benefits”. She plays Arki, a med rep who shamelessly sleeps with doctors to get on in her job. No wonder med reps complained about the film, and doctors too, as it implies that they prey on poor pretty med reps who seek their help and just sell the samples given to them for free, this despite disclaimers that “hindi naman lahat, ganun”. But although these valid issues are brought up, the movie is not at all serious about them.

Arki is told by her boss to get the endorsement of a top sports doctor, Adam (Derek Ramsay), for their new product. Once again, she willingly hops into bed with Adam. But there’s a hitch, they’ve been sweethearts 10 years ago in medical school. Adam says Arki is the one that got away and he still carries the torch for her. He’s hoping they’ll reconcile but for Arki, what happened is now just part of her job. But we all know that in stories of this sort, after all the hemming and hawing, they’ll still end up in each other’s arms.

Honestly, we got so bored while watching the movie. At one point, it has actually succeeded in putting us to slumberland. The script is badly written as it doesn’t get us to sympathize with the lead characters. When they broke up, we’re not really told what happened? Arki just disappeared and Adam is left in the dark. Then towards the end, we’re given a big revelation and a very late plot twist that there is a justified reason for this and Arki actually did a big and very noble sacrifice for Adam after he was suspended in med school and she became her family’s breadwinner.

But by that time, they’ve both become very cumbersome characters for whom we don’t really feel anything. And besides, we already know they both still love each other very much, so what’s keeping them from quickly patching things up to end our ordeal? Utang na loob, magbati na kayo already dahil nakakainip na. In that scene in the hospital where they’re both crying their hearts out as Arki insists on saying goodbye to Adam and asking him to let her go, we wanted to press fast forward but we remembered we’re watching a movie, not one on video. And immediately right after this tearful scene, there’s a very simplistic ending where they’re finally shown reconciling anyway. Ano ba yan? Pinahaba pa nang pinahaba nang wala namang wawa!!!

How this movie got an A from the Cinema Evaluation Board is a mystery to us. Maybe they like that the technical credits are good, especially the cinematography and the music. And in all fairness to Derek and Coleen, they do pretty well in their respective roles even if they don’t have much of a connection with one another.

As for Gino Santos, the material is simply not just up his alley. He might be good in exploring movies about alienated young people but he certainly is not well equipped to do a mainstream romantic flick with conflicted characters in a more engaging manner. “Ex With Benefits” just lacks the sincerity he has shown with his past two films that are obviously closer to his heart and sensibility as a filmmaker.