BORN BEAUTIFUL (Perci Intalan, 2019)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Born Beautiful:

1. Originally planned as a series on Cignal TV, this spin-off of the 2016 critical hit (and a personal fave) Die Beautiful was supposedly the first five episodes of the show turned into a full-length feature. Although the decision was understandable given the material’s commercial appeal, this also served as its main weakness. The transition from TV to film resulted into some messy storytelling (several arcs felt stretched to fill an episode), underdeveloped characters, the lack of a clear resolution (a lot of people would definitely find the ending bitin), and some surface-level views on weighty issues. Even worse, we didn’t really get to know more about everyone’s favorite BFF Barbs, except that she made funny “arf arf arf” sounds during sex.

2. I was very disappointed that Christian Bables didn’t reprise his Urian-winning role because he would always be the Barbs that we deserved. It was such an effortless and lived-in performance that was sorely missing in this movie (plus the fact that the original relied on the wonderful chemistry between him and Paolo Ballesteros’ Trisha, who sadly only showed up here for a couple of scenes including a killer Mama Mary moment).

Martin del Rosario was fine as Barbs 2.0, but under all the wigs and make-up (and occasional tucking) it still felt like a committed Martin del Rosario playing Barbs 2.0. And would it be weird to say that he was just much too beautiful for the role? If Barbs (hello Taong Lego?) looked this gorgeous, then she wouldn’t be playing second fiddle to Trisha and would actually be winning all the beaucons instead.

3. While Die Beautiful presented a clear picture of Trisha’s character with her childhood dream of becoming a beauty queen, growing up in a homophobic household, and being subjected to all forms of abuse, this sequel focused on Barbs being torn between two men (and facing possible fatherhood). Medyo mababaw lang.

I would have wanted to learn more about Barbs’ personal life, including her goals and motivations, or how she coped up with her best friend’s death, or even how she learned (or what inspired) all those make-up transformations. I guess her new and improved face only merited a love triangle plot.

4. To be fair, there were still a lot of enjoyable (read: LOL) moments here. I found it smart that they were able to connect the Jamby quip in the first with Barbs’ identity confusion problems in this one (“Mukha kang tomboy na nag-aalok ng Bear Brand!”). I cackled with glee when she mentioned that Kim Kardashian’s look cost 3.5k and the 350 version was for Kim delos Santos. And should I feel guilty that I laughed at the sight of the stroke victim’s corpse and after Barbs covered it up with a Lady Gaga circa 2009 MTV Video Music Awards kukur look (“Mukha siyang malaking regla at ikaw ang pasador”)? Or that the beki friends recommended a Rihanna transformation for their other friend that died from electrocution (“Dahil lang sunog, kelangan na negra?”) and ended up with a Sia walis-tambo look (“Sia Pusit!”)? Maybe not.

The lamest humor came from the tired beauty pageant introduction segment. Seriously, how many more times should we hear that rehashed “Seventy-eight, seventy-nine, Haiti!” joke before it gets permanently banned in Pinoy queer cinema?

5. Aside from Barbs, the Michael Angelo 2.0 character had a nose lift that resulted to a face overhaul and was now played by Artista Academy’s Akihiro Blanco. It felt odd that he was one of the men fighting over her when he was the ex of Trisha in the first film.

Wait lang Barbs, tumulong ka sugurin ang karibal ni Trisha, tinawag mo na ahas, nakipagsabunutan sa parlor, pagkatapos tinalo mo rin sa dulo ang BFF mo? Hindi talaga lahat ng ahas nasa gubat. Yung iba nagtatrabaho sa Happy Endings Funeral Homes. (Kaya ka rin siguro laging minumulto ni Trisha! Malandi, haliparot, talipandas!)

From the rest of the supporting cast, I really loved Lou Veloso back as Mama Flora (“Ang gugulo n’yo. Mag-chupaan na lang tayong lahat!”), Joey Paras as one of the Way of Light pastors, and Chai Fonacier as the baby mama Yumi. What happened to the other beki BFFs from the first film, though?

6. I really appreciated some of the witty ways the film expressed its views on current issues like the death penalty (“People can change for the better”), gender neutral bathrooms, single-blessedness (“Hindi mo naman kelangan ng partner para maging reyna”), abortion, and open relationships. That entire conversion therapy bit was also brutal (literally and figuratively) that many overzealous faithful would probably get triggeredt.

7. In one scene, Yumi was graphically describing how she ended up getting pregnant through some vulgar words and hand movements. It was meant to be hilarious (and probably one of the movie’s highlights), but ended up getting completely ruined by all the bleeping (even the subtitles were censored!). Please note that the version I watched was already rated R-18, or For Adults Only by the tasked moral guardians.

I just found it funny that one of the promotional materials for this film commended the MTRCB for being “progressive”. Totoo ba? Saang banda?

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DOOR (Johannes Roberts, 2016)

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My notes on The Other Side of the Door:

1. Mothers always make the toughest decisions in movies. Whenever a mother of two kids gets involved in an accident with them, you can expect a Sophie’s Choice moment where she has to decide and save (and therefore show her bias/favoritism/put more importance to) a specific child. She’s then subjected to endless guilt and shame on top of the overwhelming feeling of loss.

I last saw this happen in the local horror flick Amorosa where Angel Aquino had to decide if she should save Enrique Gil or Martin del Rosario. Tough call, right?

2. In this movie, Sarah Wayne Callies (Lori of The Walking Dead) was placed in the same situation and the consequences of her choice made her desperate to do anything to communicate again with the son that she lost. An Indian woman advised her that she could do this in an abandoned temple between the dead and the living (huh?) as long as she didn’t open the door (insert Ate Gay joke here) and let out the spirits saying hello from the other side (insert Adele joke here). Since this was a horror movie, you knew that door will be opened.

3. Why are most of the (good) scary stories set in Asia? Even Hollywood remakes tried to bring back the stories to their original settings because it just seemed more natural. The Grudge sent Sarah Michelle Gellar back to Japan. Even the recent horror flick The Forest had to use a Suicide Forest in Japan. (Wait, I’m visiting Tokyo soon. Should I be scared?) It must be the exoticism of the region that just made it more mystical. (FYI, this movie was an exception. Completely horrible.)

4. Most of the scenes were too dark that it was hard to see the apparently horrific things happening onscreen. The sound effects cued every scare, but nothing worked.

5. Do you still remember Flower Girl from Sukob? The one who reminded siblings not to get married on the same year? The one who left a trail of leaves whenever she made a surprise appearance? The only one that successfully killed Kris Aquino outside of her massacre movies? She has finally conquered Hollywood. I’m so proud of her!

6. I remember reading this short horror story where a father was trying to pacify his crying son who was saying that a monster was under his bed. When he peeked under, he saw his real son who shushed him and said that there was another boy on his bed. That was a real goosebumps moment. The movie tried to incorporate a similar scene but it was nowhere near as effective.

7. After an hour of terrorizing the family, how did they get rid of the ghost? The mother begged him to go away. Eh puwede naman pala pakiusapan jusko!!

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆