Directed by Yong-hwa Kim (who also co-wrote the screenplay with three others) 200 Pounds Beauty (Minyeo-neun goerowo) is a ‘feel good romantic comedy’ that really hits the spot.
We had seen a trailer for this film about four years ago. It was on a Tartan Extreme DVD and it looked funny as hell. Unfortunately we could not find a copy of the film anywhere. My daughter and I watched clips from the film on YouTube and searched fruitlessly for a DVD with sub-titles.
Fast Forward to 2012. We found a website on YouTube called Eat Your Kimchi (kimchi is a disgusting dish that is made up of cabbage being buried in the ground for months. It is then dug up and eaten. I’ve smelt the stuff and if it tastes as revolting as it smells…) The channel is run by Simon and Martina. Two Canadians who teach English in South Korea and they are YouTube personalities.
Their channel is funny, cute and informative. One of their videos explained how the Koreans felt about personal appearance and the fact that they are not shy about telling you what your shortcomings might be. They feel no shame in telling that you’re ugly, fat, too skinny, or funny looking. In Korea looks are very important. Too important.
If you look at which country has the highest number of plastic surgeries per year you’ll be surprised to find out it isn’t the image concious USA but Korea who ranks number one in going under the knife. Which brings me to the plot of the film.
Kang Ha-Na (Ah-jung Kim who plays Ha-Na in a fat suit at the beginning of the film) is a ‘ghost singer’ for a music promoters big act. The beautiful Ah-mi (Seo-yun Ji) is the singer, but unfortunately, she can’t really sing. Ha-na does it for her while she syncs the words.
Ha-Na works at two jobs. Ghost singer for Ah-mi and she’s a phone sex worker. Because of her caring personality and lovely voice she has a regular list of clients who ring her. She’s doing both jobs so that she can pay for her dad to be in a home. He is suffering from Senile Dementia and when she visits him, he thinks that she is her mother.
Ha-Na is shy and has a huge crush on Ah-mi’s manager/producer Sang-jun (Jin-mo Ju) who values Ha-Na highly because of her beautiful singing voice. Ah-mi humiliates Ha-Na at Sang-jun’s birthday party. She goes home to commit suicide. She opens all the gas jets in her flat and waits to die.
Suddenly her phone rings. She lets the answer machine take the call and it turns out to be one of her clients. He is a plastic surgeon and she suddenly changes her mind about killing herself. She goes to his office and with a mixture of blackmail and appealing to his ego as a plastic surgeon convinces him to re-make her from head to toe.
She disappears for a year to have all the surgery done. She changes her diet and exercises regularly. After the year is up she is ‘unveiled’ and she is beautiful. Slender, sexy and stunning she causes accidents when she walks down the street.
A lot is made about her new beauty and how everyone reacts to it. That is where most of the comedy is centred. She still has a huge crush on Sang-jun and she starts following him. This leads to her purchasing a second hand car. As she’s driving it she crashes into the back of a taxi. The male driver insists that its his fault and the traffic cop agrees with him. The female passenger makes the cop check Ha-Na’s drivers license.
The license looks nothing like her as the photograph was taken before her plastic surgery. She gets taken to the station and has to call her best friend Jeong-min ( Hyeon-sook Kim) to come and identify her. Jeong-min rushes into the station but she doesn’t recognise Ha-Na and goes to a drunken fat lady laying on a bench.
What makes this film work so well is the knowledge that South Koreans are obsessed with looking perfect. They have a very set idea of what makes someone attractive and they will go to any length to achieve that ideal.
The other thing that makes the film work is the fat suit at the beginning. It is 100% convincing. Film-makers have used this type of prosthetic before in Wishing Stairs. It looks disturbingly real. This effect combined with Ah-jung Kim’s performance as Ha-Na completely sells the whole idea.
Kim still walks ‘heavy’ after her operations. Despite her new svelte figure, her gait is awkward and lumbering. It takes her a while to get to grips with her new body and she doesn’t just walk ‘heavy’ her movements are those of a heavier person as well. It was her physical acting that helped to really sell that she had been the huge Ha-Na before her surgery.
We had to wait to see this film for ages, but, it was worth the wait. I had a lump in my throat as big as the state of Texas at the films conclusion. A conclusion, I might add, that sends a mixed message. It didn’t spoil the film in the least.
If you like romantic comedies that will make you sore from laughing too much. Don’t miss this film. Fortunately it is available on YouTube. The whole film, not just clips, is there for the watching. If you want your own DVD copy? I wish you good luck and if you are lucky, let me know where you found it.
I give this film a one bag of popcorn rating. Not because it deserves a lower score, but because you’ll be laughing so much, that’s all you be able to eat.
- Oscar fever boosts plastic surgery in LA (mya.co.uk)
- Surgeon discusses most-wanted features requested by plastic surgery patients (mya.co.uk)
- A Plastic Surgeon Speaks Honestly About Body Dysmorphic Disorder (bellasugar.com)
- When Romance Meets Destiny (swedeinseoul.wordpress.com)
- How To Become A Plastic Surgeon (scrubnotes.com)
- Ashlee Simpson’s plastic surgery delivers results (mya.co.uk)