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'200 Pounds Beauty' reveals its beauty at the box office

2007/02/01 Source

Kim Ah-joong emerges as a big-time actress thanks to success of plastic surgery story

By Yang Sung-jin

A transformation story, if well crafted, can produce an impressive box-office result. Add to that Korea's raging obsession with plastic surgery, and the outcome will be truly life-changing, a scenario that has played out nicely for actress Kim Ah-joong

Kim stars in the romantic comedy "200 Pounds Beauty", and as the film has become a surprising hit across the nation. Meanwhile, Kim's career is going through a drastic transformation, just the way her character trims out her extra fat overnight through full-body plastic surgery.

Kim used to be one of the up-and-coming actresses that deserved a medium level of attention from media and fans. The commercial success of "200 Pounds Beauty" has redefined and rediscovered her charm, and she is now definitely an A-list star who is being wooed by top-rated filmmakers. The question is why and how the film has become such an emotional jackpot among Korean audiences. The film, directed by Kim Yong-hwa ("Oh! Brothers"), reveals how an overweight girl changes herself into a gorgeous temptress, helped by today's incredibly advanced plastic surgery, and the persistently strong ticket sales are said to reflect Korean women's heightened yearning for a surgical metamorphosis.

Since its release on Dec. 14, "200 Pounds Beauty" has sold 6.23 million tickets, surpassing the Korean Wave hit "Shiri" (6.21 million admissions) to secure the No. 8 slot in the country's top movie rankings in terms of total ticket sales.

All the more surprising is that this seemingly "shallow" film about a woman going from an extremely overweight backstage singer to a dazzling beauty can still be seen on 200 theater screens throughout the nation, and is showing no signs of a let-up in ticket sales.

Critics said if the trend continues, the film might eventually outpace "Tazza: The High Rollers" ("Tazza: The High Rollers") (6.84 million admissions) to become the seventh-biggest hit in Korea's movie history.

Kim Ah-joong and the film did not elicit high expectations in the early stages of production because of several negative factors. Its release date, right before the Christmas holiday season, was deemed not so ideal for a medium-budget local film because big-budget movies, both homegrown and foreign, tended to crowd the much-coveted theater screens in major multiplexes.

There was no big-time star. The subject was sensitive, almost to the point of evoking a needless vulgarity associated with ruthless commercialization of the female body. Plastic surgery, after all, is still a semi-taboo topic for many in the audience. Ticket reservations - about 20 percent - were also lackluster, heralding a quick end to the transformative story.

But the early signs were way off the mark, or misleading. Except for the first week when it sold 920,000 tickets, the film has retained the No. 2 position at the box office for five weeks in a row.

The number of screens available for a single film tends to go down dramatically over a period time. But "200 Pounds Beauty" bucked the trend: it started with 473 screens and even after six weeks, maintained 237 screens - no small feat considering the average trend.

The underlying strength of the film, of course, is its solid storytelling. Based on a hit Japanese comic series, "200 Pounds Beauty" incorporates plastic surgery into the main plot in a way that satisfies the strong desire of many Korean women who want to overhaul their appearance and body at a time when outer beauty is increasingly considered important and promoted.

Another point is that the main character, Han-na is a lovable individual. Except for her overweight appearance, she's good at singing and has a warm heart. She, in other words, has an inner beauty. When she finally gets an outer beauty as well, Han-na seems puzzled by the sudden change, also revealing her interesting character.

As expected, numerous beauty clinics are rushing to introduce new full-body transformation packages that aim to mimic Han-na's transformation in "200 Pounds Beauty". There is a small fact to remember, however, for those who opt for a full-body surgery: Kim Ah-joong has used special effects to appear extremely overweight, not the other way around.

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