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'200 Pound Beauty' holds heavyweight lessons

2006/12/07 Source

The predominant fashion cult of postmodern Korea is built on an extremely slim yet temptingly sensuous body. Therein lies a dilemma: If you are too skinny, you are likely to be just skinny, not voluptuous.

To fix the dilemma, you need a great surgeon - a plastic surgeon, that is, who can suck out your extra fat and pump silicone into places where amplification is much needed. It is a physical transformation of such magical and medical proportions that bolsters "200 Pounds Beauty" (Minyeo-neun gyeorowo).

The film, directed by Kim Yong-hwa ("Oh! Brothers"), reveals how an overweight girl changes herself into a gorgeous temptress with the help of today's advanced plastic surgery.

Han-na, played by Kim Ah-joong, used to weigh 95 kg at a height of 169 cm. She has a charming voice and a talent for singing. So she works secretly lip-syncing for a beautiful yet tone-deaf singer. Her nightly job is to chat with sleazy clients on a phone sex service network.

Han-na's penchant for making money reflects her lifelong dream to be a beautiful (or just normal) girl. With the money, she believes she can get plastic surgery, erase her previous fat-girl identity and reboot as a slim and sexy girl.

Actress Kim Ah-joong actually belongs to the fashion cult standard: She weighs just 48 kg and is 169 cm tall. Thanks to a renowned Hollywood special make-up team led by Kris Kobzina and Christopher Burgoyne, Kim looks quite different in the film. She appears grossly overweight although her face is still vaguely recognizable.

Since "200 Pound Beauty' is based on a hit Japanese comics series, many of the scenes in the first half of the movie are cartoonish. For those who read comic books regularly, it's a breeze to predict punch lines.

But Han-na doesn't have any room for guessing the timing of punch lines; she takes a drubbing all the time because of her looks - or weight. She, however, believes a handsome music producer Sang-jun (played by Joo Jin-mo) will be different. Sang-jun will not care about superficial beauty, Han-na says to herself.

The turning point comes when Han-na realizes she's just being used and abused because of her weight, and her appearance really matters - a stunning conclusion that might hurt overweight audiences who cannot afford any plastic surgery.

Instead, the movie preaches the virtues of outer beauty by demonstrating plastic surgery's transformative power. Han-na undergoes drastic head-to-toe surgery and, voila, here comes a Kim A-joong-like beauty!

Aside from the question about whether such miraculous change is possible, once the surgery is completed, the movie shifts gear to focus on the physical beauty of "Han-na 2.0", something that would please most male viewers and probably offend most female viewers.

Overall, the movie is entertaining in many respects. The original Japanese comics' storytelling power is visible throughout. What is problematic is the movie's theme - lose weight or lose everything.

As the movie illustrates extensively, an overweight girl deserves bad treatment, while a slender girl with silicone breasts has every right to be treated as a princess. If you are beautiful, you can even get away with causing a car accident. That's a heart-pounding lesson for those who are desperate to lose weight.

By Yang Sung-jin

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