MMFF Movie Review: Die Beautiful

Despite its meandering narrative, Die beautiful is an entertaining and compelling dramedy about a transwoman thanks to a thoughtful screenplay, endearing characters and great performances by its cast.

Trisha, a Filipino transgender woman, suddenly dies while being crowned in a beauty pageant. Her last wish was to be presented as a different celebrity on each night of her wake, but her conservative father wants to bury her as a man. Trisha’s friends are left with no choice but to steal her body and hold the wake in a secret location. And as Trisha is transformed to look like different celebrities, they also look back at the colorful and extraordinary life that she has led – being a son, a sister, a mother, a friend, a lover, a wife, and ultimately, a queen.

While gays thrive in mainstream comedy as caricatures to laugh at, they at least have indie films who treat them better (see: Bwakaw). Transgenders however, are seen as nothing more than parodies of beauty queens. Die Beautiful dared to do something different with a clever premise.

The creative use of flashbacks produces a heartfelt story – as Trisha is transformed every night in her wake, we are told of Patrick’s journey through the years as we discover different facets of his short life. The plot is able to balance drama with comedy while avoiding the contrivances of mainstream biographical movies. There are no easy resolutions or melodramatic family crying scenes.

Die Beautiful is the first of its kind as a movie about a transgender woman in the Philippines, especially because it features a three dimensional queer character. In one scene, it’s clear that Trisha is a caring parent but its also obvious she’s a selfish stage mother. She wears her heart on her sleeve but often falls prey to manipulative men. Trisha deals with the familiar struggles of a transgender and the movie doesn’t hold back in portraying the sexual brutality that can come along with it.

Paolo Ballesteros, who is already known for his transformations, delivers a great performance in conveying a wide range of emotions. The rest of the cast especially Christian Bables who plays Barbs, serves as his honest loyal best friend.

The supporting characters also receive sensible treatment. The movie is filled with identifiable figures –  the relative who only cares about what other people would think, the sibling who doesn’t quite know how to deal with your life choices, the best friend who gives honest advice and willing to be an accomplice, and the child who ends up getting swept away by the life goals of their parents.

While the screenplay made an effort to portray Trisha’s life without mainstream tropes and provided endearing characters, the narrative is often distracted by subplots and the flashbacks can be a bit confusing. The movie also missed in giving a compelling closure for Trisha’s family, how exactly are her friends going to bury a stolen dead body?

Still, it can also be said that life is never straightforward. The movie also accomplished what it set out to do – portray Trisha’s evolving roles as a person not just an aspiring beauty queen. More importantly, it imparts a universal lesson that anyone can relate to regardless of sexual orientation.

Die Beautiful is an entertaining and relatable dramedy that’s not just about a transwoman. It’s also about an individual who just wants to be herself and fulfill her dreams.

My Rating: 8/10

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