In the Metro Manila Filmfest last year, one of the biggest box-office hits was "Die Beautiful" which dealt about two cross-dressing gay best friends dealing with death and funerals.
This year, there is another movie which just so happened to be about two cross-dressing gay best friends who also deal with death and funerals. The screenplay of this second film "Deadma Walking" won second prize at the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature in 2016 for writer Eric Cabahug.
John Samson is a well-to-do CEO of a public relations firm and other businesses. His best friend Mark Caramat is a sales rep and a part-time theater actor. Mark is currently playing one of the lead roles in a musical called "Crying Divas" about crying ladies hired in Chinese funerals. Meanwhile, John had found out that he has recalcitrant cancer and had maybe only a couple of months to live. John conscripted Mark in an elaborate plan to fake his own death because he wanted to attend his own funeral to hear what people had to say about him before he actually died.
The basic plot is not exactly new. There had been films before where characters attended their own funerals to listen to their eulogies. The story was not necessarily gay actually. The two best friends could have been from any gender orientation. Of course, the gay angle gives the familiar trope a lighter, more humorous spin because of the colorful flamboyance of the two main conspirators. That said, the flamboyance of gay guys during wakes had also been done before, not only in "Die Beautiful," but even earlier in "Ded na si Lolo" with no less than Roderick Paulate as the original template.
The names of the characters were all obviously derived from the Bible, perhaps in keeping with the theme of death and heaven. The lead characters are John and Mark as mentioned earlier. John's beauty queen mother is Elisabeth (Bing Pimentel), while his elder sister is Ate Mary (Dimples Romana). The managers of John's laundry and water shops are Martha (Candy Pangilinan) and Peter (Nico Antonio). The biggest love of John's life was Luke (Gerald Anderson). Mark's co-stars in "Crying Divas" were Job (Ricci Chan) and Josh (Jojit Lorenzo). Mark's former lover was Joseph (Vin Abrenica).
There was a recurrent reference to a French film entitled "Au Revior" by a fictitious director named Bresson and starring Eugene Domingo as a woman running from Death (Ross Kissler) as the Grim Reaper with hood and scythe. Of course, anything with Eugene Domingo, no matter how profoundly serious those French words she is saying, will come across with a sense of absurd humor. The play within the film "Crying Divas" was a cross between the Sharon Cuneta film "Crying Ladies" with the PETA musical "Care Divas" (which had similar-sounding songs, and also starred the inimitable Ricci Chan as one of the main divas).
Joross Gamboa and Edgar Allan Guzman are definitely up for acting awards here for their no-holds-barred all-out performances in the co-lead roles. Gamboa had the more serious, more straight-man role of the dying friend John, while Guzman had the showier, swishier role as the supportive friend Mark. The movie revolves around the dynamics of their friendship and the two pulled off the respective nuances and challenges of their roles.
The rest of the supporting cast were basically in short episodic vignettes, but were no less effective in eliciting laughs or tears. The cameo guest appearances of several big-name stars were also very surprising and amusing.
There is a valid point about being able to know what your loved ones thought about you before you pass away, but unfortunately these beautiful tributes are told too late already, falling uselessly on dead ears. After watching this film, we will definitely give that sobering matter some thought. What will our family and friends say about us during our own funerals?
More than resorting to elaborate hoaxes described in this film, I guess the key is to aspire for positive moments and leave only positive memories with the people we interact with everyday. That way, we would not have to worry about what they will remember and say about us when we are gone. 8/10
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."