Wednesday, March 11, 2009

200 Pounds Beauty (미녀는 괴로워)

I am so intensely unhappy about the fact that the title of this post is "200 Pounds Beauty." It aggravates me to no end that the producers of this movie did not take the time and effort to figure out that the correct phrase would have been "200-Pound Beauty." ARGH.

edit: I never did explain the Korean title. A 미녀 (pronounced mee-nyuh) is a beautiful woman, and 괴로워 (pronounced gwe-loh-wuh) means torment or agony. So the literal translation would be "being a beautiful woman is agony," in a very concise way. "200 Pounds Beauty" doesn't have any of the sort of poetic flow that the Korean title has.

**spoilers ahead!**

Anyways, getting over my animosity towards the title of this film, I decided to watch it out of sheer curiosity. It made so much money in Korea, opening in December, 2006. The movie propelled its female lead, Kim Ah-Joong (김아중), into stardom practically overnight.

It also helped that Joo Jin-Mo (주진모) was in the film, an actor with lots of credits. He most recently appeared in 2008's "Frozen Flower" (쌍화점), a historical drama about a closeted king.

Before he was a gay king that lived more than 700 years ago, Joo Jin-Mo was a stressed out record producer in "200 Pounds." (See what I did there? Dropped the "Beauty" to make the title less annoying?) He really was the redeeming factor in this romantic comedy, because there wasn't much going for it.

The studio hired an unknown to play the female lead, since she was in makeup as a 200-pound woman in the beginning of the movie that gets (TONS of) plastic surgery in order to become a 100-pound woman. While Kim Ah-Joong was fine (she did her own singing, which is good- not great, just okay), she didn't have much emotional range. A tear falling artfully down your cheek doesn't make you Meryl Streep, after all.

The plot confused me slightly- it was about a fat girl that worked two jobs: one job as a ghost singer for a famously hot pop star named Ammy, one job as a phone sex operator. Hanna has a crush her music producer- more accurately, Ammy's producer, which Ammy takes advantage of one night to embarrass the living daylights out of sweet, innocent Hanna.

After suffering many indignities at Ammy's hands, Hanna decides to commit suicide, but her plot is foiled by one of her phone sex clients, incessantly calling her. She cannot have a desperate man's voice asking for a happy ending be the last thing she ever hears! So Hanna makes a resolution to live a new life.

She has recorded the kinky fantasies of a famous plastic surgeon, and decides to blackmail him. The plastic surgeon (played by the always hilarious, always bumbling Lee Han-Wie (
이한위)) gives in to Hanna's demands, of course. He makes her over from head to toe, envisioning his masterpiece in transforming a lumpy piece of clay into a work of art.

Comedy regarding formerly skintight clothes that are now enormous, a dress Hanna couldn't even dream of wearing before now fitting perfectly, etc., etc. The usual, the expected.

Hanna goes back to the record studio, where Ammy and her producers are frantically searching for a replacement ghost singer. Hanna auditions and gets the job (of course), but Ammy's producer decides that Hanna should release her own record, rather than singing for Ammy.

The producer, Sang-Joon, is not as hard-boiled and harsh as everyone thinks he is. He's even adopted a puppy that ran up to his house and wouldn't leave (OF COURSE it's Hanna's puppy that she had to abandon before she went in for her multiple surgeries).

Hanna is conflicted- live her life as Jenny the pop star, a woman that Sang-Joon could date? Or live her life honestly as Hanna, 95% artificial?

I followed along, followed along, kept trying to fall under the spell, followed along some more, but the movie finally lost me during Act 3, when they attempted to teach me a life lesson. I'm still not clear what that lesson is ... get lots of surgery and I'll be miserable for a while, but then end up beautiful and having everything I want? Stay 100% natural and end up with two crappy jobs, no credit for my work, and an ailing father? ...What? Really?

As far as life lessons go, this one failed spectacularly in its presentation. Still, it was a funny movie, witty at times, horribly predictable at times, silly at times, and full of music that I generally liked (especially Alex from Clazziquai- he has a lovely voice).

The song that the marketing team used as its theme was "Beautiful Girl," sung by Kim Ah-Joong. A commercial for the movie, featuring "Beautiful Girl":

They have made a musical out of the "200 Pounds" story, since the film version proved to be such a cash cow. Bada, from the girl pop group S.E.S., and Yoon Gong-Joo (윤공주), a stage-musical actress, share the leading role. ("Gong-joo" means 'princess' in Korean. What are the chances that this girl was not spoiled growing up??)

Bottom line for "200 Pounds Beauty," the movie version: flirty fun! Need a distracting little cream puff of a film for a couple hours? This is a good choice.

Certainly not worth all the hype, though.