Tag Archives: Paolo Ballesteros

tv + film by Philbert Dy

‘Amnesia Love’ Lacks Wit and Inspiration

Paolo Ballesteros stars in a problematic film about a gay man who forgets who he is

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Amnesia Love tells the story of celebrity stylist Kimmer (Paolo Ballesteros), who falls off a seaside cliff while hiking and washes up on the shore of a remote island in Mindoro. He wakes up with amnesia, remembering nothing about who he is or what he does. He doesn’t even remember that he’s gay, and he soon gets roped into a romantic rivalry concerning the barangay captain’s daughter, Doray (Yam Concepcion). Doray actually starts to become infatuated with him, which becomes a problem as his memories begin to slowly surface, and the truth about who he is comes closer to being revealed.

The first sequence of this movie is indicative of what the rest of it is like. In it, Kimmer walks into a club with his friends, and two characters we don’t know and don’t really see again talk about the character to introduce a mountain of exposition. Rather than let us get to know Kimmer in an organic way, the movie just awkwardly has characters spilling way too much dialogue to talk about the history of the character. It’s indicative of a general lack of wit and inspiration, the movie often taking the clumsiest, most artless route toward delivering its scattered narrative.

The film invests early on in the general awfulness of Kimmer, which would make one assume that the story might be about the character learning to be more decent to the people around him. But that isn’t what happens. The character doesn’t really get to grow, because the character as introduced isn’t really around for most of the movie. Macky is for all intents and purposes a completely different character. And there really isn’t much in the plot that involves him trying to remember who he is. The bulk of the film just plays out as these barely-connected vignettes, detailing how the character’s inherent homosexuality is expressing itself in spite of the loss of memory.

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The movie seems to play much of this as comedy, the scenes depicting stereotypically gay qualities as a punchline. Macky trips and delivers a high-pitched scream. Macky sees some nets and starts wearing it like a head scarf. Macky is disgusted with Doray’s sexual advances, and instead glances over at a hunky fisherman. For as much as the film displays an acceptance of homosexuality as a whole, it still feels weirdly dated in its attitudes. This doesn’t even get into its depiction of women, particularly Doray, who gets really problematic in the third act.

The direction does little to help the comedy along, and the production values don’t quite feel up to snuff. It feels like local TV in the worst way. Paolo Ballesteros is a naturally charming performer, but this is far from his best role. Yam Concepcion is clearly game in any scene that she’s in, but there just isn’t much to this character. Vandolph Quizon shows up as the butt of an overly long joke, but he does occasionally add a layer of slight depth to a character written to be nothing more than an empty villain.

Amnesia Love isn’t much. It’s light on wit and inspiration, its attempts at comedy often falling flat due to stodgy filmmaking. Its premise is potentially intriguing, but the screenplay doesn’t really latch on to anything that really takes advantage of its more unique elements. It floats aimlessly for an hour before heading into a baffling third act that involves completely bonkers character decisions and a completely unearned stab at sentiment. It certainly could be worse, but there’s very little in here to recommend.

Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.
tv + film by Philbert Dy

Barbi D’Wonder Beki Creates a Flawed, but Alluring Fantasy of Acceptance

Ballesteros stars in a film that is progressive in some ways, and regressive in others

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Barbi D’Wonder Beki follows Billy (Paolo Ballesteros), the closeted youngest son of a family of police officers. He works as a security guard for a wealthy family. His boss gets on the bad side of a syndicate, and Billy witnesses his murder. Unfortunately for him, he is mistakenly blamed for the murder, and he’s forced to go into hiding. He takes on the identity of Barbi, dressing as a woman and hiding in plain sight as a performer at a drag club. And through this, Billy starts to finally gets a chance to embrace who he is as a person, gaining fame and notoriety under a different name.

This is a movie that is meant to be met with conflicting feelings. On the one hand, it is a somewhat triumphant coming out story that is basically about the freedom of being able to express oneself through dressing up in drag. On the other hand, it is a film that still exhibits regressive values, at certain ridiculing people for the way they look, and ultimately relying on violence as a means of resolving its main plot conflicts. When things are balanced out, the film works fairly well overall, but one must admit a little discomfort with some of things that this film represents.

It takes a while to get to the actual transformation, but once it happens, it’s subversive in a really interesting way. The characters in the film just openly accept that Barbi is beautiful. The film doesn’t even make hay of the distinction between Barbi being identified as a woman or a transgender person. It doesn’t leave room, either, for anyone to even question Barbi’s appeal. The film just jumps ahead of all the usual struggle, and just puts together a scenario where the entire country is completely accepting of the beauty of drag. And in its main character, it explores the ways in which drag can be a powerful means of exploring one’s identity.

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This doesn’t absolve the film of its weaknesses: the production as a whole is a little sloppy, a good chunk of the humor feels mean-spirited and regressive, and there is a surprising amount of violence. But it does lend it genuine value. And by the end, the movie does get genuinely endearing in imagining the perfect happy conclusion for these characters. It plays out a fantasy of acceptance that feels warm and welcoming. It doesn’t quite earn it dramatically, but in the context of a zany comedy, that kind of logical jump just kind of works.

Paolo Ballesteros is the lynchpin of this movie, and he makes it work. It isn’t just that he transforms, but that he is able to convey the struggle from within the character. The only knock against him in this movie is that the lip sync performances aren’t quite as good as they could be, but the production might be a bigger part of why those sequences don’t quite work. No one in the supporting is afforded nearly as much nuance in their roles as Ballesteros, but they all do the job well enough, considering the limitations of their broadness.

Barbi D’Wonder Beki is far from perfect, but there is just potent value what it ends up depicting. In some (admittedly limited) ways, the film is actually more progressive than Ballesteros’ breakout film Die Beautiful, in that it’s purely a celebration of the freedom of embracing one’s sexuality, conveying the message that being gay isn’t necessarily a tragedy. One just wishes it could have done this without resorting to other regressive means of humor. Its message of acceptance could have been taken further, the movie unbecoming when it starts punching down.

Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.
tv + film by Philbert Dy

A Strong Lead Performance Anchors ‘Die Beautiful’’s Unfocused Narrative

The film creates connections between transformation and identity thanks to Paolo Ballesteros’ earnest performance.

NBHD movie 3 ticketsDie Beautiful skips around in the life of professional gay beauty queen Trisha (Paolo Ballesteros). The movie actually begins with Tricia already dead, her story framed by her week-long wake, where her best friend Barbs (Christian Bables) is making her up to look like difficult celebrities every day. From there, the movie jumps around several chapters of her life. As a teenager, he is still known as Patrick, and is suffering the abuse of his conservative father (Joel Torre). From there, she joins the provincial gay bear pageant circuit, falls in love, gets betrayed, adopts a child, and goes through all manner of trials and tribulations on her way to her greatest triumph and subsequent tragedy.screen-shot-2016-12-26-at-9-36-53-pm
The film does seem to have been built around Paolo Ballesteros’ viral makeup transformations. It’s kind of an odd thing to hang a narrative on, and the movie does struggle to find a focus. It jumps around the timeline, playing out different episodes of this one character’s life, each bit pretty much functioning as a standalone bit of storytelling. The first portion tackles Trisha’s relationship with her adopted daughter, which grows strained as the young Shirley Mae starts to develop an identity apart from her mother. This alone could have been the foundation for an entire narrative, but the movie quickly moves on from that. It doesn’t really resolve anything before going on to the next thing.screen-shot-2016-12-26-at-9-34-49-pm
And the next thing doesn’t really get resolved, either. Or the thing after that. The film is happy to drift between the various episodes, revealing new aspects of the main character’s life. She is a mother. She is a son. She is a lover, a mistress, and a beauty queen. There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on, certainly, but the movie never quite gets around to connecting these loose narrative vignettes into a cohesive whole. It ends up feeling unfocused, the succession of transformations the only thing really holding the movie together.screen-shot-2016-12-26-at-9-37-30-pmThere’s still plenty to like here, though. The movie does find some intriguing pathos in the character’s compulsion to transform. There is a trace of something compelling in the movie’s exploration of an entire subculture necessarily obsessed with appearance. The movie manages to wring some genuine emotion out of a spectacle that is inherently facile—even a canned Q&A response turning into an earnest expression of identity. In moments, the film delivers bits of insight that speak to a much larger struggle.screen-shot-2016-12-26-at-9-37-52-pm
Helping anchor this whole thing is a pretty remarkable central performance from Paolo Ballesteros. The nature of the writing necessarily calls on the lead actor to take on a variety of roles. We get to see a pretty broad range of Trisha’s life, the movie depicting her at various points of developing and identity. And Ballesteros handles it all with aplomb. The actor resists going too broad in any direction, and ends up delivering a really earnest performance that grounds the movie through its many episodes. He finds ample support from Christian Bables, who turns a pretty thankless best friend role into something a little more compelling.screen-shot-2016-12-26-at-9-39-06-pm
Any portion of Die Beautiful could probably be expanded into a full feature by itself. There is certainly merit to the approach taken here; the film finding connections between the Trisha’s transformations and the various roles she takes on in her storied life. But it doesn’t entirely come together as a singular whole—the film feeling oddly episodic. Having said that, the strong lead performance gives this film a compelling center. And in moments, the film reveals all manner of beautiful things lurking just beneath the chintzy glamour of the main character’s world.

Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.