Friday, December 30, 2016

7 Things About Die Beautiful

This review may contain some harsh comments but that doesn’t mean that the movie is altogether
ugly. The 42nd Metro Manila Film Festival is made of ultra-high quality films – what more can I ask for?

My goal is to give my best (and also my most brutal) review of the films with the desire to help the filmmakers and actors alike. The Golden Age of the Philippine Cinema is here and these people need inputs and insights! This is what exactly I am trying to achieve through this blog.

Before anything else, I’d like to congratulate all the people behind the film “Die Beautiful”. I hope these inputs help you in your next films – or whatever.

1. Very impressive concept

I like the fact that this film banked on Paolo Ballesteros’ superb make up transformation skills. That skills set is impressive and I would love to see it in a movie. I believe this is also one of the reasons why Die Beautiful won the hearts of many – it was already loved even before it came out. Now for filmmakers this is double-edged sword. Can it live up to the expectations of the discriminating crowd or will it just settle for being one of those highly entertaining films? Or can it do both?

Overall, Die Beautiful is a likeable film. It may not be my most favorite Filipino film ever but still undeniably raised the standard of quality of local films. This is how films should be like!

2. Good and bad actings

There are two people who stood out in the film – the actor who played Barbs and then Joel Torre. 

Barbs is so good you would believe the role was intended for him – or that he was involved in the conceptualization of his character. He owned it – even outshone Paolo Ballesteros at some point. All his lines and nuances are all in the right places at the right time. This guy should be thrown more projects!

On the other hand, Joel Torre was scary! I have seen him do dark and sinister characters before but his performance here is just amazing. He should do more projects like this.

While there are good actings, there are also remarkably bad and unconvincing actings. I got disappointed with Iza Calzado and the guy who played the high school crush of Paolo Ballesteros. These are pivotal roles and I thought the actors for these should have been carefully chosen.

The role seemed to be not for Iza – but as they say there are no wrong roles. Despite this, I knew Iza could have done better. I really loved her in “Milan”. Can she channel what she did in that movie again in her next projects?

About the guy who played Paolo’s high school crush, there is something that’s telling me that this guy is not for “serious” projects like this. He can play roles in feel-good, light and comedy movies but Die Beautiful is just not one of those films.

3. You could have “milked” some more the 7-day wake

The whole film centered on the 7-day wake of Trisha, Paolo Ballesteros' character. It is on each day of the wake that the anticipation for the make-up transformation of Paolo Ballesteros is being built upon. All the make-up transformations of Paolo are fantastic. And this is remarkable to me because make-ups and prosthetics are things that I don't remember Philippine cinema is excelling at.

Because of this very powerful material  (Paolo's make-up transformations), I believe that the 7-day wake should have been developed some more. For example, the make-up transformations can have a pattern – allowing one to lead to another – to build up a much better momentum for the story. Or connections should have been established between the make-up transformation characters and the stories for each day.

The mind loves patterns and connections. By using this insight alongside a raw material that is already powerful in itself, I believe that the film will be able to outdo itself.

4. Emotions checklist

In every film that I watch, I always do an emotions checklist. A film should be able to convince or confuse the mind while it tickle the emotions and activate the imagination. Below are the emotions I remember during the film.

a. Funny – The film is funny. Thanks to Barbs and his witty lines. Also, Paolo Ballesteros did well.

b. Scary – It doesn’t have to be a horror film to induce fear. Thanks to the excellent acting of Joel Torre playing the homophobic father of Paolo.

c. Drama – The film, of course, also has drama. Which Filipino film doesn’t? However, there are not much crying in this film – which is a little bit sad because the film has a great opportunity. At some point, I even found myself waiting for it. I am not looking for dragging drama scenes but there are parts of the film that should have been developed some more to inspire some sobbing.

d. Love – Two more elements that should have been explored more is the love between Paolo and his adopted daughter and also the love between Paolo and the guy who died of leukemia. I felt it fell short on those aspects – even though the film itself testified on the importance of these two relationships for the lead character.

e. Curiosity – The film gave us all a glimpse into the lives of the “beaucons” or beauty contest joiners. While I laud the film for taking this road less traveled, I think that it did not necessarily excel in it. It just did okay. I was waiting for more “aha! moments” about the lives of the beaucons. What are some of the remarkable things that world should know about them? The film already had the chance to tell that important story. It should have fully arrested that opportunity.

5. Cameo performances

What are the cameo performances of famous celebrities in indie films for? Are these just for PR stunts or because the story itself calls for it? 

I believe Die Beautiful excelled in this aspect. The appearances of Iza Calzado and Eugene Domingo are excellent. I just have nothing much to say on the acting of Iza. And also, on the wig and overall appearance of Eugene Domingo as a recognized fashion designer. I just don’t think fashion designers “overdo” it. Eugene Domingo did well in acting though.

6. Some far-fetched, unresolved and unconvincing ideas

Below are some unresolved issues inside of me because of the film.

a. How the guy who died of leukemia confessed that he had been stalking Paolo for so many years after that fateful night is just too far-fetched and unbelievable. It was too contrived. I believe the writers could have done better with this one.

b. The reunion scene of Paolo with his ate, Gladys Reyes, was unsatisfying. Aren’t they friends when they were younger – Gladys was his "ate" and the only one who truly understood him? They don’t even have a mother anymore! How can the writers be so un-generous with their protagonist like this?

c. How the adopted daughter of Paolo grew up so fast that the movie started with her being pregnant is just too amazing! Should the movie really have to start with that premise? Even without it, the film will stand.

7. Anti-climactic or just bad ending?

Okay. Let me begin by saying that the film had successfully created sequences that were so solid for an ultra-satisfying climax to stand. However, until now, I am not sure if I’ll call the film anti-climactic or the ending is just so bad. 

Anyhow, below are some of the better endings that played in my mind.

a. Barbs and friends stole the body of Trisha for additional suspense and thrill. This was followed by a car chase or someone getting hit by a bullet. It can be Barbs – and then Barbs dies beautifully too as he laid down his life just to fulfill the last wish of his friend. I dunno. Something like that.

b. Joel Torre turned out to be gay too and buries his son's body peacefully.

c. Trisha wakes up from a very long dream. Cuts right through the scene where he will answer the question, “If you were given the chance to live again, who would you be and why?”

Overall, I still believe that Die Beautiful is an awesome film that is worth-watching. I am so proud to be a Filipino – especially nowadays. Also, only quality films deserve lengthy reviews. They are worth the time.

Thank you for the opportunity, Die Beautiful.

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