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1 review, 4 user ratings

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200 Pounds Beauty
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by Jay Seaver

"200 Pounds is a little much for lovely Kim Ah-jung to carry."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2007 FANTASIA FESTIVAL: The thing about "200 Pounds Beauty" is that there's no satisfying way to end it. The premise (fat girl becomes a beauty through extensive surgery) leads to the film either presenting radical, dangerous cosmetic surgery as a viable course of action, ending in tears, or trying to have things both ways. It's inevitable. So it's a real testament to Kim Ah-jung's performance that we spend the film hoping it will find some way to pull it off.

Ms. Kim plays Kan Han-na, an overweight, unattractive woman who nevertheless has a lovely voice. It serves her well both as a phone-sex operator and as the real singer behind pop tart Ammy (who's pretty and can dance, but can't carry a tune at all). Han-na has a crush on Ammy's manager Sang-jun (Ju Jin-mo), and he seems to like her... And then Han-na overhears them talking about her. Crushed, she goes to one of her phone-sex regulars, a plastic surgeon, and demands he change everything. He reluctantly agrees, and after a year of surgery and recovery, Han-na re-emerges at half her original weight, with a new face, new boobs, etc. Hearing that Ammy's second album has been delayed (while Sang-jun and Ammy tried to find Han-na), she auditions to be Ammy's replacement under another name. "Jenny" gets the gig, and the guy, but pretending to be someone else creates its own problems.

Kim Ah-jung is the reason to see this movie; she brings the same sort of innocent, kind of dorky charm to Han-na at both sizes, always at least a bit out of step with what people expect from someone who looks like she does. She always hits the right note to get the audience to believe in and like Han-na, whether it's squealing upon having her bandages cut off that she even cries pretty now, telling her doctor that the dangers of the surgery don't matter because she feels like she's already died, appearing genuinely tortured that she has to pretend not to know her senile father or risk exposing her deception, or imitating glamor poses as she walks. She's got great comic chops and a pretty darn good voice for the singing scenes; her face is expressive enough for silent comedy. She never loses sight of the fact that we're supposed to like Han-na, even when she's screwing up or not at her best.

None of the other characters are quite a match for her. I was never quite able to get a handle on where Ju Jin-mo was going with Sang-jun. Most of the time, he seems like a nice enough guy who is at least fond of Han-na, but he plays an early scene with Ammy a bit too well, making it hard for the audience to get behind him. The actress playing Ammy is more than a little hamstrung by the script, which gives hints that she's something more than just a complete bitch and then has the character just disappear when the time comes to play on that. Han-na's best friend is just kind of there because Han-na needs someone in on her secret.

Director Kim Yong-hwa and his co-writer No Hye-yeong (working from a graphic novel by Yumiko Suzuki) do pretty well, considering the no-win situation that they're creating. Their observations on pop culture are well taken - even though Sang-jun often comes off as a mercenary type, it's hard not to cheer when he drops the line "what's her gimmick? It's called singing!" on another producer and his pink-haired client. They manage to milk comedy out of Han-na's fear that the artificial parts of her body will break or get her discovered without making her look like a fool. And they get points for trying to make a point about the somewhat alarming prevalence of plastic surgery in Korean society. They wind up trapped by just how lovable Han-na is and their desire to make an upbeat movie, though - while trying to get across the message that people should be happy with who they are, they can't make Han-na pay a karmic price for her new beauty. The finale flails about, eventually settling on a cloying teary confession scene.

"200 Pounds Beauty" doesn't quite work, but it makes a valiant effort. At the very least, it's a breakout role for Kim Ah-jung, and I eagerly await seeing her next movie.

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originally posted: 07/09/07 00:17:16
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Fantasia Film Festiva For more in the 2007 Fantasia Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/21/16 precious/pretty wow i love the part of kissing, breast touch,butt it made me want a kiss from sangjun &boob 5 stars
7/05/10 Yuntaku é um filme adorável para quem gosta de comédias românticas, seja de onde for. 4 stars
4/06/09 Jordan Great piece of Romantic Comedy. Han-na's "Maria" was so touching that I cried. 5 stars
7/31/07 elle i LOVED this film! was totally awesome! 5 stars
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Directed by
  Kim Yong-hwa

Written by
  No Hye-yeong

  Kim Ah-jung
  Ju Jin-mo
  Kim Yong-geon
  Kim Hyeon-sook
  Im Hyeon-sik

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