Deadma Walking on the surface seems like a follow-up to Die Beautiful because of its title. Though, by its actual meaning when translated, it does not really make any sense except for the gay lingo-derived play on words of Dead Man Walking. And just like the title, the humor is very Filipino, and very gay—no discrimination intented. You just have to watch the trailer and you’ll see that it really does unapologetically sell this brand of humor. The film is based on a Palanca award winning screenplay by Eric Cabahug, so its pedigree sets it up for scrutiny. Does it hold up to its own hype?
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The premise is intriguing as seen in the trailer. The ‘Dying Diva’ John (Joross Gamboa), upon being given a life expectancy sentence by his doctor due to cancer, wants to experience his own funeral while still alive. He coerces his friend, ‘Crying Diva’ Mark (Edgar Allan Guzman), to fake and stage his own death. Quite imaginative actually, the film seems like a story worth telling. +3
Then there’s this elaborate sequence of the best friends planning the whole scheme with reenactments of their thoughts. Some moments are almost hilarious and considerably are hits, (+3) but there are also a few misses (-2). It drags on though and becomes a bit too expected at some point (-1). That leaves us with an effective total of +0.
I suddenly have this jarring feeling that some scoring choices may have been too much, pushing some punchlines which may have actually been funnier without them. Some moments throw me back to the 80s with feels like that of those sitcoms in that era. -3
Joross is believable enough as a successful gay businessman but someone else steals the show, MMFF Best Supporting Actor winner Edgar Allan Guzman. He pulls a Christian Bables as Barbs in Die Beautiful whose whole conceit is making everyone believe that he really is a parlorista-type of gay man while he is really straight in real life. Only a few actors can pull off this believability 'cause this type of portrayal entails the shedding of one’s matinee idol stature. EA does just that while being effective in the complete range of emotion that his character demanded. Strangely, I feel that he was wrongly categorized. But maybe that’s because the jurors didn’t want to pit him against Best Actor winner Derek Ramsey, 'cause EA definitely deserves to win an award for this portrayal. I even predict that he will win even more, come awards season this year. +5
There are moments that feel like the film’s humor falls into the usual gay tropes but, hey, most of the time the rest of the audience was dying in laughter. (I might just not be the target audience for this one.) Which implies that it’s not a universal type of comedy, I guess? But then again, that’s what filmmaking is all about, offering us new things to experience and discover. So, for that, I have to give points for effort. +2
I gave this film a special award in my mock award predictions with the most cameos in a film—ever. Having a funeral scene gives it a lot of opportunities for cameos via eulogies and it does not disappoint with the roster it provided. From Gerald Anderson, who has more than a single scene as the love of John’s life, to Raquel Villavicencio as John’s former teacher, and even Piolo Pascual as a badminton playmate. Another good effort to make the material more commercial though some cameos did nothing to push the story but only provide more star power. +1
The film also introduces first time full length director, Julius Alfonso, who has been Joel Lamangan’s associate director for years lending a new voice for Alfonso outside of the veteran's shadow. +1
To add spice, there’s a musical ongoing within the film called ‘Crying Divas,’ giving us a few comedic moments. It stars EA with Ricci Chan and Jojit Lorenzo as drag queens who are hired to cry at funerals—obviously a parody and tribute to Crying Ladies. That was fun to watch. +2
There is a surprise twist in the end which is enough to raise eyebrows though, in an attempt to create conflict in the third act. I won’t spoil it in case you still plan to catch the film but I don’t quite buy it. -3
What’s quite notable about this film, and I’ve been seeing this on social media even before catching it, is how they established the relationship of Mark and John as soulmates despite not being romantically involved. It does give a whole new meaning to the term and is pretty admirable. +3
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So how does this film differ from Die Beautiful? Let’s just put it this way. Aside from being a totally unlike, plot wise, Die Beautiful is a drama feature that has comedic moments while Deadma Walking is a comedy with some moments that could possibly tug on your heartstrings. With only 11 popcorn points, I cannot recommend it for everyone’s pleasure 'cause the material definitely has its niche. But I want to send props to its producers for making us experience something different in the cinema.
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Banner image from Edgar Allan Guzman's Instagram account. Photographs taken from Eric Cabahug's Facebook account