Die Beautiful: Movie Review

Die beautiful, was beautiful. Beautiful script, beautiful execution, beautiful message. This can’t be said for every film.

I’ve been curious about this indie movie ever since Paolo Ballesteros won the award for Best Actor at the Tokyo International Film Festival some months back but unfortunately, the movie has not secured a local release date yet at the time. Months later, I was psyched to see it get a slot for Metro Manila Film Festival 2016. Suffice to say, I was impressed by the rawness and the honesty of the story as well as its execution. Bravo, director Jun Lana!

die-beautiful_poster_goldposter_com_2.jpgThe LOWDOWN: The story revolves around the life and struggles of Trisha Echiverria/Patrick (Paolo Ballesteros), a gay whose lifelong dream is to become a beauty queen. However, just as she was crowned the winner of the biggest gay pageant in the country, she suffers from brain hemorhage aneurysm and dies. For the next seven days of her wake, her best friend Barbs (Christian Bables) works hard to fulfill her wish of transforming her corpse into a different celebrity every night.

I was fully expecting a hard core drama but I was pleasantly surprised by Die Beautiful’s subtle but substantial approach to Trisha’s story, which was told in flashbacks interwoven into scenes of her make up transformations at her wake.

Paolo Ballesteros was the perfect actor to play the part because one, he was so beautiful, and even more so when he accomplished his make up transformations. He played Trisha so subtly and so naturally, but his eyes held such pain and longing when he delivered his dialogues even though he was not breaking down 90 percent of the time.

He was able to communicate his character’s pain to the audiences even though he wasn’t having a meltdown, and it was all the more effective because he was obviously doing it to keep a brave face. My heart broke for him for all that he had to endure and yet, for each and every tragic experience, he tried to fight the good fight and keep his chin up despite life’s continued blows.

I loved his chemistry with Christian Bables, Trisha’s best and most loyal friend because their natural rapport made them pull off the dramatic scenes as well as the comedic scenes very well. And let’s talk about this newcomer. I was completely blown away by Bables’ portrayal of Barbs because this guy just shone. While some actors would have been content to portray the role of a sidekick, Christian was able to create a character that was as real and relateable and rootable. He was the friend that had Trisha’s back through thick and thin. He was the family that embraced him when his blood relations shunned him. He was the one person who would stop at nothing to honor his wishes even after death. He is the friend that each and every one of us dreams of having and he was a marvel from beginning to end. My favorite of his scenes was when he finally unveiled his final look and introduced him as the most beautiful person he has known. It brings me to tears even remembering the scene. Darn you, Christian.

I liked that the film didn’t go over the top and simply told the story with an honesty and openness that encouraged viewers to see the struggles of the LGBT community minus the frills. While many see gay pageants as comic relief, to many members of the community, it represents a dream and a validation of their purpose. A peek behind the scenes of these gay pageants show how they manage to achieve their looks, which take a bit more magic than hetero pageants but the preparations are no different and the intent behind them are no less important. I loved the answer to the question, who would you like to be, because it described Trisha perfectly. The significance of why it was the only answer he memorized out of an entire notebook-ful of answers was clear in that very moment that he was destined to achieve his dream, amid all his struggles.

I loved little Shirley Mae because she had unconditional love for her Mama and understood him, even despite her young age. I was a bit turned off by the inconsistency when she grew up and transformed into a rebellious teen who was willing to leave the mother who toiled and raised her, just because he was pushing her to join beaucons. It was a far cry from the girl who comforted her mom through her heartbreaks and lost loves and I wish they would have established this conflict more if it was the film’s intent to make it a reason for Shirlay Mae’s behavior.

As for the Jessie storyline, I would have wanted for more conviction in establishing how Jessie truly felt for Trisha because their final scene focused more on Jessie’s confession of his sin, which negated his confession of his true feelings for her.

All in all, I was a big fan of the screenplay because the truth bombs were tailored like arrows aimed straight at audiences hearts. I was also impressed overall by how the story was told. The consistency of the opening and closing scene was a tear jerking bookend to Trisha’s colorful story and it was just full of love, and purpose and color. Much like her final wish to die beautiful, she was remembered for her beautiful life and her beautiful soul and more than anything, she was surrounded by the people who embraced her as she was — brave, beautiful and filled with love.

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