There really is a compelling point hiding deep within the inanities of Tony Y. Reyes’ Barbi D’ Wonder Beki.
Trivial if not totally empty
The only problem is that the film adamantly rejects digging deeper than it could, which results in a film whose understanding of the dilemmas of its main character is frustratingly trivial, if not totally empty.
The film centers on Billy Bayagan (Paolo Ballesteros), a bodyguard for a wealthy businessman.
Billy also happens to be gay, although closeted because he hails from a family of bemedaled law enforcers who he thinks might disapprove of his more feminine ways.
After a very lengthy and clumsily plotted introduction that shows Billy’s repressed life, he accidentally is tagged as the main suspect of his boss’ murder, prompting him to be taken in by a club owner (Joey de Leon) who suggests that he turn himself into Barbi, the up and coming star of his club’s drag act.
When Billy is Billy, he projects faux masculinity to hide his sexual identity. When Billy is Barbi, he masks himself with a ton of make-up to evade being arrested for a crime he didn’t commit.
The film only scrapes the surface of its very intriguing premise as it is more interested in boisterous humor that ultimately betrays what could be a more imperative aim. Barbi D’ Wonder Beki is again a film whose ending only conveniently proposes tolerance when its plot movements have the potential to explore why there is intolerance in society in the first place.
Not campy enough
But then, Reyes’ film was never meant to be like Jun Lana’s Die Beautiful (2016), whose portrayal of the aches and pains of a trans woman is more holistic even if it is laced with so much humor. Barbi D’ Wonder Beki is but a shallow, half-baked and half-hearted attempt to rehash the successes of Lana’s film.
The film tries to make up for all its banality with well, makeup.
Sadly, the film isn’t even campy enough.
When it strikes for wacky glory, such as when it introduces a side plot involving a competition between Barbi and the club’s long-time diva (an excellent Thou Reyes), it simply fails to live up to the promise because Reyes seems incapable of comedy outside old-school slapstick and boorish jokes. The film’s very many good ideas just simply couldn’t take off because either the effort or the creativity just wasn’t there in the first place.
Barbi D’ Wonder Beki is a buffet of wasted opportunities.
It is only occasionally funny and rarely insightful. Its make-up spectacle pales in comparison to Ballesteros’ previous efforts. More importantly, its main moral is a motherhood statement. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas’ ‘Tirad Pass.’ Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.