Unlike the previous years, I’m glad that I was able to get a chance to watch some films at this year’s Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino (PPP) (Festival of Filipino Films). I decided to choose films that were a little bit different , and whose premises I found interesting. As you all know, the first PPP movie I watched this year was “We Will Not Die Tonight” , and for the second, I chose “Pinay Beauty: She’s No White”. The whole topic about how beauty is deeper than your skin has been done before, but its a topic that is always relevant and I was curious as to how this would be executed. While we had an endearing main couple, and leading lady Chai Fonacier’s energy was electric, and the main message was brought across; the movie was narratively incohesive as they to give the three subplots running throughout the movie equal screen time.
“Pinay Beauty: She’s No White” made its nationwide debut in the Philippines last week, August 15, 2018, as it was part of this year’s line up for the Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino (PPP) (Festival of Filipino Films). The movie was directed by Jay Abello (“Red”), and written by Alpha Habon and Rod Marmol.
The film follows three subplots, tied together by a common thread, and covers the span of four days. The first subplot follows Annie (Chai Fonacier), a regular Pinay, who is gearing up for her Php. 180,000 dream plastic surgery so that she can look like Snow White and join her friends who are currently working as Disney princesses at Disneyland Hong Kong. The second subplot follows her ever loyal boyfriend, Migs (Edgar Allan Guzman), and his friends, as they try to figure out how to fulfill the extraordinary conditions that the loan shark Migs had taken the Php. 180,000 from in order to pay him back- a date with the ideal Pinay beauty, the actress Lovely G (Maxine Medina), or he pays back all the money. The third subplot involves Lovely G, who wants to be taken more seriously as an actress and wants to get more diverse roles than what she’s usually typecasted in.
Chai Fonacier’s energy as Annie was nothing short of electric, and she stole the scene every time she appeared, to the point that the energy dipped when she wasn’t there. Her character’s journey was interesting to watch, as well as her relationship with Migs, so I was disappointed that we didn’t get to see as much as I wanted of her, as they did tease us with some backstory for her character that seemed to have a lot of potential.
Edgar Allan Guzman played the endearing and loyal boyfriend well, and his agony over his big problem was real and palpable. I did enjoy watching him with Annie and with his friends, but I think the subplot of them trying too many things to get Lovely’s attention or to earn Php. 180,000 dragged on too long, so at times, the focus of the movie felt like it was on them instead of Annie. I also thought that they didn’t need to put the bed scene and the boys and Mariko Ledesma’s Isabel’s capers of earning money by selling themselves there, as a quick montage implying it could have sufficed.
The second subplot took way too much screen time, which also took away from the potential story for Maxine Medina’s Lovely G, and I would have liked to have seen her interact more in some way with them, especially with Annie.
However, the message of the movie, that beauty is deeper than your looks, and that we should be proud of our own brand of beauty, was something that was put across well, and didn’t feel to heavy handed. I also love how they tried to say that your own inner beauty will also shine when you are content and happy with yourself as well.
“Pinay Beauty: She’s No White” had a lot of potential, had great performances, and had was able to give us a new way of executing a story with a topic that has been done but is still relevant until today. Unfortunately, the characters and the main performers sometimes didn’t have a chance to shine, as it got bogged down by trying to give equal screen time to all the three sub plots happening at the same time.
Now, you know the drill, from here on out, there will be spoilers!
The entire film’s premise actually hinges on sending the message across that our brand of beauty is wonderful, and should be celebrated; and that inner beauty is really what counts in the end. And that message was put across loud and clear. So, in that respect, the film succeeded in what it wanted to put across.
Another thing that made this film standout was its interesting premise, as it sees our main character, Annie, wanting to have an operation in order to look like Snow White in order to get a chance at a better job and life by working at Hong Kong Disneyland. However, while we did get to see Annie’s journey on screen, we really didn’t get to spend that much time with her as it felt like they put more premium instead on the light hearted part of the film, which involved Migs and his friends trying to get Lovely G’s attention and as they tried to figure out how to come up with the Php. 180,000. So, instead, we ended up learning a bit more about Migs’ friends, instead of spending more time with our main character, and I would have liked to have seen the tension build up between Annie and Migs as well.
There was so much potential for us to explore with Annie and Migs’ relationship, and especially with Annie herself, as it seemed like there was a more deep rooted reason as to why she wants to look beautiful aside from the whole Disneyland thing. Because of this, it felt that some emotional beats weren’t really that earned.
I also loved the fact that they inserted music from “Snow White” into the film, and that all her clothes, even her underwear, are all yellow and blue, the same colors of Snow White’s costume in the Disney film.
Edgar Allan Guzman gave a solid performance as the troubled, but ever so-sweet and loyal boyfriend. I do love the fact that he’s willing to do everything to make Annie happy, and I also like the fact that after years of catering to her whims, he finally stood up and was honest with her about the fact that he loves her even if she doesn’t have the surgery and goes to Hong Kong so that they can have a better life, because, to be honest, all that he needs is her. I do wish, though, that we could have explored his connection to the loan shark more, and maybe instead of showing us the backstory about his dad, they could have just added in a few lines of expositional dialogue and explained why he doesn’t want to borrow from him.
We also weren’t able to delve much into Lovely G’s character as well, and I couldn’t really see her character arc clearly. I would have also liked to have seen her interact with Annie as well, because she could have taught her that looks aren’t everything, and in fact, can be a hindrance to what you want, especially as in her case, it seems like she can’t get the diverse roles she wants because she looks too much like a leading lady for that. Also, delving into that would have allowed the ending with Annie cheering Lovely G on feel more earned.
For this film, I think that it would have been better to have kept things a little bit simpler so that we could have learned more about our main three characters, and see their character journeys better, including all the emotional beats that went along the way. Also, balancing out that many subplots made the movie feel unnecessarily long.
However, the performances were all great, especially Guzman, Fonacier and Medina. Fonacier has an electric presence on screen and does well with different scene partners, and she brings and endearing likability to Annie’s character, which is no mean feat especially when we really don’t see much of her side, and we just see Guzman’s agony over trying to figure out a way to appease the loan shark he got Annie’s surgery money from.
In the end, the film does a good job in presenting us with a new way on how to put across a message that has been done before but is still relevant until today; and gave us interesting characters and great performers, with Fonacier being a clear standout as the leading lady. Unfortunately, it got too bogged down by balancing three story lines equally and by trying to be light- hearted to the point that delving into the main characters themselves got sacrificed.
What other Pista ng Pelikulang Pilipino (PPP) (Festival of Filipino Films) were you able to catch? Have you seen “Pinay Beauty: She’s No White”? What did you think of it?
Are there any other Filipino films you would like me to review on this blog?
Let me know in the comments below!
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