Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My Black Mini Dress (Korea 2011)

Seemingly obnoxious and shallow from the outside looking in, things aren't what they appear to be as My Black Mini Dress (마이 블랙 미니드레스), actually has a meaningful story to tell. Trust me, I'm probably as surprised to say that as you are to read it. 

Four close friends, Yoo-min (Yoon Eun-hye), Hye-ji (Park Han-byeol), Soo-jin (Cha Ye-ryeon), and Min-hee (Yoo In-na), have just graduated college and are ready to celebrate a new chapter in their lives. It's time to grow up, leave behind the partying lifestyle and find real jobs right? Well, maybe not for everyone and reluctantly so for others. These girls are used to living a very free lifestyle; going to the club every other night, partying and just having a good time. Time has passed since graduation and our girls are now 24 year old women. Yoo-min is trying her hand at being a broadcasting writer; Soo-jin is tutoring teenage students while secretly attending auditions because her dream is be an actress; Hye-ji is wealthy so she's content just partying and Min-hee, also from a family of wealth, chooses to take an English course, complete with her own puppy-love storyline, so that she can study abroad. It would appear that Hye-ji and Min-hee are the only ones content with their lives, while Yoo-min and Soo-jin are struggling to keep up an optimistic front when they're all together. Hye-ji introduces Yoo-min to the young and wealthy Seok-won (Lee Yong-woo), because she worries that her friend is struggling in love. At the club, just by chance, a guy spots Hye-ji and offers her the opportunity to star in a Levi's jeans commercial, an opportunity that will change the direction of her life. The other girls find out about it while buying tickets for a movie as it plays on a giant monitor overhead in the lobby. Naturally, they're all shocked to see their best friend starring on TV with a new-found entertainment career that seemed to come out of nowhere. However, not everyone is as happy as they appear to be, or possibly should be, and it's not long before the green-eyed monster starts to show itself. Soo-jin, and her secret struggle to become an actress, isn't shy about expressing her feelings of irritation about how Hye-ji, the girl with everything, is yet again given more. Meanwhile, Yoo-min is trying to have a relationship of sorts with Seok-won, and is dealing with an unbelievable boss (Jeon Soo-keyong), who constantly makes unrealistic demands. She does begin to find some comfort when an old schoolmate, Young-mi (Choi Yoon-young), comes into her life with friendly advice, as she too is working in the same field. When an incident involving Hye-ji brings the girls together again, Soo-jin and Hye-ji get in a huge argument in which their true feelings come to light. This is the tipping point that sends all four girls in different directions, forcing them to evaluate the friendship they've had all these years and if they all know each other as well as they had thought. Will Soo-jin and Hye-ji be able to let bygones be bygones in order to be friends again? And can Yoo-min figure out what love is while at the same time trying to find her place in a professional world where she struggles to fit in? 

I wasn't in a hurry to see My Little Black Dress because quite frankly I thought it was going to be a chick-flick, and in many ways it is. However, my crush on Yoon Eun-hye wouldn't allow me to avoid it and I'm glad I didn't. Things start off a little bumpy as our four main characters aren't introduced in a flattering light, and it takes a while to warm up to them and take notice of their individuality. Yoo-min is your straight-shooter, Hye-ji is the spoiled, live-life-with-no-consequences type, with Soo-jin being the serious one and Min-hee being your slightly air-headed comic relief. Yes, I realize these characters are all representing different character-types, but they do it well. Yoon Eun-hye, regardless of my feelings about her, really does a nice job at showing the difficulties in transitioning into adulthood and the responsibilities young people face. Hye-ji was a tough character to warm up to for me, but she's meant to be that way because she's spoiled and comes from a background that most of us can't relate to. I personally enjoyed Cha Re-yeon's performance and her character's actions because even though, as a viewer, you know she's just jealous of Hye-ji, it comes across as believable and you can even understand it. Many of us have been in similar positions. As for Min-hee, well...she's just cute and her moments were amusing. There's a story told here about friendship and trying to define just what exactly a friend is. The girls begin to realize they they may not know each other at all when their own lives start falling apart and they look for a shoulder to lean on. I found the story-telling to be a smart, true-to-life tale serving as food-for-thought in many ways, regardless of the movie being geared toward a female audience. I know I've had times where I felt I couldn't tell even my closest friend things and wondered why that was. There's a dark twist in the third act, a plot device that tends to anger me in most films, but here it seems to work. I will also say the ending had a bad case of, "this isn't over yet?", syndrome, in which you thought the scene you were watching was the last, only for there to be another scene and yet another. Silly filmmakers, you got me!

A story that rings true and strong performances that sell the story all the more are what help to put My Little Black Dress into recommended viewing territory. I love when a movie can make you feel introspective and that's how this one left me. Plus, that Yoon Eun-hye is just too darn cute. (Lee)

Grade: B

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