Monday, May 7, 2007

200 Pounds of Beauty (Korea 2006)

It's no big revelation that we live in a largely superficial world where appearances seem to mean everything. People are obsessed with monitoring the daily lives of good-looking celebrities who are a necessity in magazines, commercials, films, and advertisements in general. Occasionally, the entertainment industry seems to exude a hint of guilt at not making enough shows or movies that 'real' people can relate to. Hence the existence for movies such as 200 Pounds of Beauty; a movie that manages to serve up some real comedic moments, while at the same time teaching us a thing or two about the meaning of true inner beauty.

Hanna Kang (Ah-jung Kim) is the 200 pound beauty of the film, and lives a life of extreme contrasts. Her day job consists of singing in a backstage area for an untalented K-pop idol Ammy who soaks up all the credit and fan adoration by lip synching over Hanna's beautiful singing ability. In the evening, she uses her soothing voice to run a phone-sex operation from her humble abode. She doesn't particularly like the job, but she needs the money in order to keep her mentally unstable father (Im Hyeon-sik) in the hospital so he can receive proper care. Back at Hanna's day job, the man running things behind-the-scenes is Sang Jun (Ju Jin Mo), and he seems to really appreciate all of the hard work that Hanna puts into making Ammy's entire existence a success. Naturally, Hanna develops a crush on Sang Jun due to his friendly and appreciative nature, and the fact that he looks like a model doesn't hurt matters. Hanna's best friend Jung-min (Kim Hyeon-sook) advises her that it would be best to dismiss any feelings she might have for Sang Jun. Fraudulent pop idol Ammy gets jealous of all the attention Sang Jun gives Hanna and makes it her goal to humiliate her every chance she gets. After an unfortunate incident in which Hanna overhears some revealing and hurtful information at Sang Jun's birthday party, she completely gives up on life and decides to end it all. A nicely timed voicemail from one of Hanna's regular 'customers' (who happens to be a plastic surgeon) interrupts her suicide attempt while giving her an grand idea at the same time. Hanna blackmails the doctor into performing various surgeries in an attempt to have the life she never had and maybe even win over Sang Jun in the process. One year later, and going by the name of Jenny, she returns to the life of music she left behind in an attempt to grab Sang Jun's heart and take over as the new queen of K-pop.

200 Pound of Beauty is a movie that forces itself to find a unique way of telling the same old story. When you're dealing with a concept of a persons appearance changing drastically, you know for sure that two things will happen: first, that person will become so egotistical that all of their friends from their previous life begin to loathe them, and secondly, that person will also reach a point where they realize that their previous life wasn't so bad after all. In 200 Pounds of Beauty, the same rules apply. So what can be done to deviate from the same old overdone stuff? In this case, we're lucky to have a likeable protagonist through Hanna. She's so genuinely sweet and innocent (before the surgery) that you can't help but empathize with her and hope that everything works out for the best. Ah-jung Kim does a good job at expressing a wide range of emotions and it's fun to watch her adjustment as a new-found "beautiful girl" once the surgery has taken place. Ju Jin Mo plays a suave music executive, but his personality can be conflicting at times. Alternating between hot and cold, it's difficult to know his true feelings and intentions. The supporting cast all do a fine job in their roles (although the plastic surgeon Dr. Lee is hilarious), but this movie is almost entirely about Hanna and the emotional roller coaster her life takes after her physical transformation. Of course Ammy will still be around to make Hanna's life a living hell, so it's not all fun and games.

200 Pounds of Beauty isn't perfect by any means, especially since it manages to stretch itself into an almost two-hour running time, which is almost thirty minutes too long in my opinion. Ninety minutes would've been more than sufficient to tell this story, and with a lot less filler. The ending is what you'd expect, comprised of the big secret of Hanna's true identity being revealed complete with the appropriate "gasps". It's all played out in an incredibly over-the-top fashion, that seems more concerned with tugging at the heart-strings than worrying about creating a realistic moment. However, the film manages to get it's message of "inner beauty" across in a way that isn't overbearing, but still finding the right balance between seriousness and what it is at it's core; a comedy. You'll laugh, possibly cry, and hopefully walk away more conscious of how we should treat one another. (Lee)

Buy 200 Pounds of Beauty on DVD or VCD at YESASIA!

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