After her best friend dies, Barbs starts a new life as a straight man named Bobby, which leads her to Trisha’s ex-boyfriend Michaelangelo, to her own ex-boyfriend Greg and to a woman claiming she is pregnant with Barbs’ child.
Barbs works in a funeral parlor, where she makes the faces of the deceased look like famous stars. After a rather surrealistic scene where she meets with the deceased Trisha, troubles with her boyfriend, Greg, who happens to be married, and her best friend dying after being struck by lightning, Barbs decides to leave her trans life behind and become a straight man. To do so, he joins the Way of Light, an organization who is specialized in returning trans women to manhood, through religion. During her effort, she has sex with a prostitute but soon realizes that she cannot be straight, particularly after she starts having a romantic relationship with Trisha’s ex, Michaelangelo. Eventually, the three people she had sex with, come knocking at her door, together.
Perci M. Intalan directs a delightful film that uses comedy and Barbs’ sash to make a number of comments, particularly regarding the lives of the transgender. Identity issues is the first one, but the most pointy one is reserved for the “return to manhood” institution and the way it uses religion to achieve its goals, with Intalan highlighting the ridiculousness of the whole concept as clearly as possible. The “punishment” Barbs receives for having sex with a woman could also be perceived as a kind of comment, but the presentation is too humorous to take it completely seriously. Lastly, the world’s obsession with celebrities is highlighted through an ingenious, dark humor approach.
One part of the narrative I really enjoyed is the way Intalan highlights the differences of Barbs’ two lovers, particularly in the parallel sex scenes, where music also plays a significant part. On the other hand, the whole soap-opera, filled with motleyness, TV advertisement-looking visuals kind of bothered me, although in the end, this approach seems quite fitting for the narrative.
In that fashion, Tey Clamor’s cinematography captures the whole drag scene aesthetics fittingly, with the same applying to the more “regular” scenes, which occur mostly during the time Barbs decides to be heterosexual. Maynard Pattaui’s editing induces the film with a rather fast pace that suits its overall aesthetics quite nicely.
Martin del Rosario is the undeniable star of the movie as Barbs, with him giving a truly flamboyant performance that carries the film for its whole duration. Particularly the interactions with Yumi are a true treat, as Chai Fonacier is also great in the part, while the scenes where Barbs tries to become a “proper” man highlight Rosario’s acting range.
“Born Beautiful” can be a bit too much occasionally, particularly to the heterosexual eye, but it is a funny, beautiful film, that manages to present its comments through a very fitting hyperbole.