Saturday, July 27, 2013

Quick Change

♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

At first glance, Dorina (Mimi Juareza) seems to be just your average girl with the common mix of everyday life drama. She has a theater actor boyfriend. Her devotion to the Virgin Mary as a religious icon and a role model for beauty is unquestionable. She takes care of her half-Japanese nephew who lives with her and whom she accompanies to and from school every day. However, this is just what is visible in the surface, what meets the eye; the naive and indifferent eye of society. In reality, Dorina is a preoperative transsexual. The theater actor is cheating on her. And she makes a living by injecting her clients with collagen for cosmetic purposes. Illegally. Things start to get tricky when she finds out that the chemical she has been utilizing for her sideline is not really collagen all along, but Tire Black.

You will like how the film highlights the moral struggle involved in operating within the shady underworld of cosmetic surgery, after welcoming the surprise in realizing that such a phenomenon actually exists. What makes it more dramatic and interesting, though, is how this is juxtaposed with the parallel struggle that transsexuals have to deal with as members of a society with a plethora of preconceived notions about them, along with all the moralistic bullshit that comes with it.

Most members of the LGBT community seem to exist for the sole purpose of being ridiculed and laughed at, at least if you base it on how they are represented not just in popular media but in society as a whole. Loud, crass, and ridiculous are among the adjectives that easily come to mind whenever you see them dominate the ramp, regardless if it is in a televised or baranggay gay beauty pageant. Since they are almost always perceived as sources of laughter because of their humor and appearance, one almost forgets that they also experience serious dramas in life, and that is what this movie does not fail to accomplish.

Scraping through the surface, the film strips off your notion of the transsexual, from every shimmering sequin down to each flamboyant feather, to show you that hey, this is the real deal beneath all that glitter. Chances are, you would not be that prepared for what you are bound to see.

Unintentionally working as a documentary of sorts, there is gratuitous display of breasts and needles injected on faces and other parts of the body better left unmentioned; something definitely not for the squeamish. Despite the R-18 rating, such exhibition of debatable vulgar material proves to be effective in emphasizing the rawness of it all, giving it that unmistakable indie feel. If you are used to poverty porn and all the nitty-gritty that comes along with it, then this film would not be such a surprise for you but rather just another everyday life trivia about an activity that you do not generally witness in the open. As the credits roll, you would probably reflect and think, uhm, okay, so those things do happen.

Most of the roles are portrayed by transsexuals, including the lead one, unless the actress is biologically female and they asked her to wear prosthetic genitals for her full frontal confirming her current status as a pre-op. It is quite difficult to determine at first if she is biologically female or not because she does look and speak like one, as opposed to the other transsexual actors who are evidently transsexual without a doubt. In any case, it does not matter because her acting chops are able to deliver the emotion to clearly show the sense of inner struggle regarding a lot of factors about her sexuality and humanity in light of the circumstances that she has to face.

While this film might not suffice as an authoritative idiot's guide on what it is to be transsexual, it does give you a notion of a facet of their lives, which hopefully leads to better understanding of what they go through and why they behave the way that they do. In that sense, the film could have gone deeper, although it could be argued that educating the public is not really the primary purpose, but in effect, just a positive side effect of telling another human being's life story.

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