In 2016's "Die Beautiful," audiences were first introduced to Barbs Cordero, best friend to Paolo Ballesteros' Trisha Echevarria. Barbs was meant to be on the sidelines. Her winsome character, however, stood out in the critically acclaimed dramedy, stealing scenes with her wit and sass, if not, on par with the main star's knockout performance.
So it seems a natural for the creators of the film, led by Jun Lana, to fashion a spin-off on the "Beautiful Universe," this time orbiting on Barbs' life. Two years after "Die Beautiful" had collected plenty of accolades here and abroad, Barbs returns to the silver screen to pure delight.
In the hands of director Percy Intalan, Barbs navigates the world living in between in "Born Beautiful." She remains to be an aspiring beauty queen, but also works as a mortuary cosmetologist at the Happy Ending Funeral Homes. Jarred from Trisha's sudden death, Barbs struggles to come to terms with her identity that an ill-fated Santacruzan, where another friend dies after being struck by lightning, pushed her over the edge.
In an attempt to exorcise what's living inside her, Barbs decides to embark on a conversion therapy. She removes her breasts and starts to live again as Bobby. In the camp called Way of Light, she undergoes various activities, including a night out to a bar, that will cure her sexual identity. A traumatic incident, however, forced Barbs to quit the program, leaving the camp in tears.
In the process of rediscovering her genuine self, Barbs meets Michael Angelo, Trisha's ex-boyfriend. She also patches up with Greg, her abusive ex-boyfriend. Coming out of the woodwork is a pregnant Yumi who claims to be carrying his baby. With three people vying for her attention, Barbs is at sixes and sevens.
All things considered, "Born Beautiful" is a story about boundless love, courage in speaking your truth, and acceptance by living your authentic self. The film portrays a protagonist who is unapologetic about her sexuality and knows her wants and desires, a bold defiance against male-centric traditions and a firm declaration of queer identity.
"Born Beautiful" uses humor as a vehicle to take on serious issues, such as homophobia and non-monogamous relationship. It doesn't intend to solve anything, but instead opens up conversations generally considered taboo.
Martin del Rosario leads the stellar cast, giving his own distinctive take on the larger-than-life Barbs who is not an easy role to fill. Deserving credit as well are Chai Fonacier and Lou Veloso in their effortless portrayal of Yumi and Mama Flora respectively. Ballesteros, who also appears in dream sequences, will hold audiences spellbound.
They say that sequels are seldom as good as its predecessor. Certainly, "Die Beautiful" is a difficult act to follow, but "Born Beautiful" lives up to expectations. What it offers is clever comedy from start to finish. It is funnier and wilder and deserves a wide audience.