Born Beautiful is the much-awaited sequel to the smash hit Die Beautiful, which premiered at the 29th Tokyo International Film Festival in October 2016 and was an official entry to the Metro Manila Film Festival in December that same year.
But Born Beautiful, now showing in cinemas nationwide, is an entirely new movie with a different director and a lead actor.
Perci Intalan has taken over the directorial duties from Jun Robles Lana, who megged Die Beautiful.
Direk Perci and Direk Jun have remained the film’s producers, just like in the first movie, working under their own production companies, The IdeaFirst Company and OctoberTrain Films, alongside Cignal Entertainment.
Direk Jun also heads the writing team, consisting of Rody Vera, Elmer Gatchalian, Fatrick Tabada, and Ivan Andrew Payawal.
On the other hand, Martin del Rosario plays the lead role of Barbs, a makeup artist who can make the dead look like celebrities. Christian Bables previously played Barbs in the first installment, Die Beautiful.
Born Beautiful picks up from where Die Beautiful has left off and lives up to the standard that its progenitor has set in tackling the lives of transwomen.
Central character Barbs Cordero (Martin del Rosario) finds it hard to move on from the death of her beloved best friend Trisha (Paolo Ballesteros), especially when another BFF of hers, Princess (VJ Mendoza), meets a tragic end.
Barbs takes those unfortunate events as signs for her to revert back to her masculine ways, so she enters a reformation facility as Bobby and undergoes a conversion therapy.
She soon finds herself in a traumatic situation, and leaves the facility in a huff.
Enter the late Trisha’s ex-lover Michaelangelo (Akihiro Blanco), a taxi driver who happens to be driving around the area.
Sparks fly as Michaelangelo drives Barbs to Barbs’s old employer, Mama Flora (Lou Veloso), who owns the Happy Ending Funeral Homes.
Barbs gets warnings from her colleague and close friend Kennie (Gio Gahol) and their new co-workers, who turn out to be exes of Michaelangelo.
Barbs also finds out that her object of affection is very much married, but she continues seeing him because his wife is cool about their setup.
Then again, Barbs’s former flame, Greg (Kiko Matos), re-enters the picture with promises of not hurting her again, so she’s confused.
Worse, a sex worker named Yumi (Chai Fonacier), whom Barbs had met during her Bobby phase, suddenly turns up at the Happy Ending Funeral Homes announcing that she’s heavy with child—and the father is Bobby!
Barbs feels lost and undecided, until she gets divine intervention through Trisha.
Just like its predecessor, Born Beautiful is effortlessly funny, especially when Barbs and her friends rehearse for a beauty contest and eventually participate in one.
Barbs’s scenes with Trisha are also hilarious, but always with heart.
The comparison to Die Beautiful doesn’t end there as its sequel likewise touches on the drama and difficulties that gay men and trans women face and try to overcome.
But Born Beautiful comes into its own by tackling the subject of polyamory, or the practice of having more than one consensual sexual, romantic, or emotional relationship.
This aspect isn’t fully discussed, though, because the movie is actually a compressed version of five episodes of a TV series of the same title that will be aired soon on Cignal TV.
Thus that’s the only way to find out what happens to the unusual setup of Barbs with Michaelangelo, Greg, and Yumi.
The movie’s entire cast, led by Martin del Rosario and Lou Veloso, with Paolo Ballesteros in special participation, did a good job in bringing life to their characters and their scenes together.
They’re so good that some of the scenes were deemed too much for the audiences to handle, that’s why the movie initially got an X-rating from the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB).
With a few adjustments made by the movie’s makers, Born Beautiful can be watched in cinemas in two versions: the original R-18 and the sanitized R-16.
Ed's Note: The "PEP Review" section carries the views of individual reviewers, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the PEP editorial team.