Excellent story, good direction and superb acting make a “Class A” movie. If one aspect sagged, Die Beautiful would have not been as beautiful as it is. Good thing, it has all the right buttons pressed at the right time.
A good-looking boy from a conservative family whose single dream was to become a beauty queen as transgender has all the elements of a story for all ages and all cultures. After all, isn’t being gay universal? Doesn’t it exist across races, cultures, classes, nationalities, religions and regions?
The movie mirrors what is common in society—young effeminates who have crushes on handsome boys consequently abhorred by kin especially fathers who can’t take their sons as gays; their wish to become women to the point of spending a fortune to grow breasts and even to have their manhood cut-off to make them women—in form at least, but never in substance. The movie also represents the common work as parloristas and beaucon (beauty contestant) habitués, the act paying men for sexual gratification, the reality of growing old alone and or keeping boys so someone can look after them at old age or over them at death—as what Lou Veloso characterizes as the owner of the funeral parlor where the wake transpires.
Behind their made-up faces, flawless skin, flowy dresses, high stilettos and flirty gaits though are human beings who love and are capable of loving without expecting in return; people whose heartaches, dreams and aspirations are the same as anyone else’s.
“Ang galing ng story, ng screenplay,” one moviegoer remarked. Anyone who’ve heard it agrees, for this is the story na may puso, punumpuno ng puso, hindi lang kababawan at katatawanan tungkol sa kabaklaan.
As Patrick who becomes Trisha Echevarria, Paolo Ballesteros is both funny and arresting; some of the lines he delivers are admittedly adlibs, according to producer Perci Intalan. And the best thing is that, Ballesteros’ adlibs are intelligently caught and replied with equally funny and witty adlibs by his best friend Barbs, played by straight Christian Bables.
Making Die Bautiful truly an excellent movie is the beautiful acting of Ballesteros and Bables, as in reality, they are not flamboyant gays, only excellent actors who played their characters according to the story.
Director Jun Robles Lana’s use of flashbacks has been very effective to understand how things came to be and what they have become. Even the old puzzle “Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?” comes into fore with a funny conclusion.
Always a runner-up and never a titleholder, all Trisha wanted was to become the queen, complete with crown, sash, sceptre and victory walk—then he can die. And it happens when the only question-and-answer he ever memorized is what’s picked up for him in the biggest gay pageant he ever joined. Sickly since he was young, he dies of brain aneurysm soon after his declaration as winner.
Going back why he looks a different beautiful celebrity everyday during his wake, Trisha jokingly (with premonition) told Barbs that for seven days, he wanted to look like his favorite celebrities—as Angelina Jolie on the first day—they’ve been copying with their make-up skills on their free time together.
There are unanswered issues in the film—like what happens now with Trisha’s adoptive daughter, Sheila May (Inah De Belen), how Trisha became close to Jesse’s wife, what happened to the boylet whom he spent to have a nose job but left him for another gay, his father’s (Joel Torre) non-presence during the wake and Barbs’ own love story if ever there was.
But it’s the humanization of the transgender—who abound in Metro Manila and could be a family member, kin, friend, acquaintance, friend of a friend or just anyone you know up close and personal or from afar—that is the most important thing achieved in this movie.
Having all these elements, it is no wonder that Die Beautiful became a favorite in the Tokyo International Film Festival held in October where Ballesteros also got his first Best Actor award. It is funny and entertaining, yet emotionally wrenching.
The cameo roles of Iza Calzado and Eugene Domingo add color to the film, but Ballesteros’ aping of the subtle acting of Jaclyn Jose is one that elicited the biggest laughter among moviegoers.
The success of this film in the Metro Manila Film Festival may produce a clamor for another Ballesteros starrer next year, which means a slapstick real transgender Vice Ganda movie could be, well, a thing of the past—for intelligent paying movie going public, at least.
Mother Lily Monteverde of Regal Films is credited as one of the producers, along with her daughter Roselle, making this production not an indie movie after all. So it was surprising that the Regal matriarch blurted out words that undermine the indie realm when her solo-produced Mano Po 7 did not make the cut.
We can only thank the MMFF executive committee for truly bringing change to the movie industry and choosing the likes of Die Beautiful as treat to Filipinos during the holiday season.
A big congratulations to Paolo Ballesteros and Christian Bables for winning Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor respectively during the 42nd MMFF Awards.
More of movies like this, please!