200 Pounds Beauty: Not Just a Rom-Com (Warning - Some Spoilerage)

ShimmaPuff

Sentient IMBUSILE
Oct 12, 2006
9,752
2
Earth
This movie was actually released in 2007, so I'm late to the party, but it stuck with me so much for days after watching it that a rant was inevitable.

The plot: Hanna (Kim A-Jung) is an incredibly talented singer, but because of the societal stigma of overweight, she is relegated to the position of "playback singer" for Ami, the hottest new pop princess.

Stuck backstage in a stuffy little booth, Hanna belts it out while Ami, dressed up in typical pop princess stagewear and surrounded by the usual conglomeration of backup singers, dancers and special effects, lip-syncs.

When not recording or lip-syncing for Ami, Hanna moonlights as a phone sex worker, where thanks to her gifts of compassion and patience with her troubled clients as much as her creatitivity and "evocative" skills, she has a loyal following.

Hanna is in love with Ami's producer and boyfriend, Sang-Jun, (played by Jin-mo Ju), who is the only person who is even remotely nice to her.

Western audiences will be shocked by the way BFF Jung-Min (Hyeon-sook Kim) treats Hanna, so much so that the one scene where the girls get matching tattoos and giggle and squeal like actual friends is jarring and out-of-place, and in fact the tattoos are central to a needed plot element, so it is possible that the scene really was "stuck on."

Hanna should face facts and forget about love, Jung-Min tells Hanna, because as far as men are concerned, there are 3 kinds of women in the world, the pretty girls, who is a treasure, the ordinary girl, who is a gift, and then there is the reject. Hanna, of course, is a reject.

Although Sang-Jun's friendliness to Hanna is clearly only that, Ami is jealous of his sincere appreciation for Hanna's talent, and resentful of the fact that she has none herself.

She sets Hanna up with a cruel trick, sending her a dress, supposedly a gift from Sang-Jun, to be worn at his birthday party. Of course the dress is all wrong for Hanna, she looks awful in it, and then Ami shows up in the same dress. She actually looks pretty awful in it too, but that is just my subjective judgment and has nothing to do with the plot.

While a humiliated Hanna hides in the bathroom, she overhears Sang-Jun telling a fretful Ami that they must both be nice to Hanna, or does she want to go back to backup dancer days, because if Hanna walks, Ami's career will end.

In despair, Ami attempts to end her life, but is saved by a call from one of her devoted phone sex clients, who happens to be a famous plastic surgeon.

There follows a funny scene in the surgeon's office, where he is about to throw her out after she asks about getting the miracles he describes done on credit, but quickly changes his mind when Hanna cleverly reveals her "other" identity.

Hanna disappears for a year, during which time Ami's career predictably crashes and burns, and when her Extreme Makeover is complete, she erases her old identity completely, and returns to the world as the slender and beautiful Jenny.

Meanwhile, all the expected drama has been going on behind the scenes as the recording company is losing money by the day, having had to postpone Ami's much-awaited second CD, and a desperate search for a replacement "voice" is underway.

Hanna, as Jenny, auditions, the company (including San-Jun) goes wild, and plans are made to launch Jenny, the new pop princess, while Ami is left out in the failing sitcom pasture of the has-been.

The only person who knows Jenny's secret is Jung-Min, and that only because of the tattoo, which is a big old scoop of artistic license, as it would not have survived a makeover as Extreme as Hanna's, but hey, it's a comedy.

Jung-Min still sucks at being a BFF, though, telling Hanna that women who have had plastic surgery are considered "monsters" by mainstream society, and that even the most forward-thinking men may think it is fine for girls to get work done, "just not MY girl."

When Sang-Jun himself confirms this, using the same words, and her interaction with Sang-Jun continues to be as one-sided and painful for her as it ever was - if his earlier remarks to Ami about only using Hanna were a clue that Sang-Jun is no prize, in his most dramatic scene with Jenny, a raw, tear-your-heart-out moment when Sang-Jun finally understands just how much the woman who stands before him now, the woman who is Hanna, loved his sorry ass, just how sorry an ass that is is brought home to us as as hard as it is to her, and the more hopeful among us may even think we see a clue-stick hovering above the head of Sang-Jun himself.

Jung-Min needed the tattoo to recognize Hanna, but her father, institutionalized due to Alzheimer's or some other non-specified, or at least not understood by me, illness, does not need a tattoo, and when the movie, according to Korean comedy tradition, gets to "the serious part," it is through the scenes involving her father, (Hyon-shik Lim) that we feel the profundity of Hanna's anguish and the extreme emotional effects of the identity crisis in which she now finds herself.

But the one scene that is at once the most Spielbergian wipe-a-tear and bounce-up-and-down-howling-with-delight absurd takes place at Jenny's first concert, where everything hitting her at once, she is unable to perform, and confesses, whereupon the crowd all hold up stick-lights and chant "It's OK! "It's OK" reassuringly as a giant screen behind her fills with the image of Original Recipe Hanna, singing the song that she wrote "while just looking at the stars."

It is during these climactic scenes that Jung-Min finally redeems herself and starts acting like BFF material, and by movie's end, as a new SuperStar is born, and new posters and CD covers that say "Hanna" replace the ones that said "Jenny," even Sang-Jun seems to be trying on a bit of introspection for size, sadly realizing that to the extent his superficial ass may have ever been capable of real feelings, it was to the person Hanna is that his heart has always been drawn, as much as his mind has been drawn to the artist, no matter what she looks like, and that this nascent epiphany is several dollars short and about a year late.

Although especially the first third of the movie contains a lot of frankly offensive lame "fat" jokes and slapstick, as well as plenty of expected standard rom-com content, 200 Pounds Beauty is no ordinary romantic comedy.

Reportedly several famous actresses turned this role down. Maybe they were skittish about donning a "fat suit" Or maybe they read the script.

This would be a difficult role for any actor, but Kim A-Jung steps up, and while she plays nicely off the other actors in the comedic scenes, it is the dramatic moments where she gets the chance to show her chops.

This is an actress who works on her craft, and that someone who is -let's be honest here - NOT a natural comic in the classic sense of the term, nor with decades of experience and training to fall back on - can capture, to any extent, some of the subtleties of "what it would be like" not only to get used to a completely different body - but the instant turnaround in societal attitudes - is pretty impressive.

After a lifetime of being the butt of snickers, cruel jokes and rejection, when she emerges from the seclusion of recuperation from her surgeries, Jenny learns overnight just how different reality is for girls who are considered beautiful. In every situation, from the most casual encounter to potential catastrophe, the treatment she receives, the way people respond to her, is diametrically opposed to everything she has known.

For viewers looking for social commentary, it's there, but the mixed message element nearly obscures it.

I guess if we want to wax philosophical, we could argue that this accurately reflects cultural reality. While on the one hand, lip service about the importance of inner beauty, acceptance and self-love, has become obligatory, a cursory glance at any magazine or screen, large or small, tells a different story.

The wisp-thin girl who conforms to the current standard of beauty, near-universal in the global village that is Modern Today, continues to enjoy a very fat advantage over her older, plumper, different-featured sister, everywhere from the workplace to the lunch counter to the social and dating arena

I know I have just left out whole chunks of this movie, for instance, there is the element of family business drama - Sang-Jun's dad owns the record company, which also employs his brother, and one scene in particular, with a slightly hokey but very effective use of blood as a symbol of, well, blood, is certainly worth a mention, but I have totally failed to praise Hyon-shik Lim sufficiently for his excellent portrayal of Hanna's addled but loving father.

If nothing or no one in 200 Pounds Beauty makes you cry, Hyon-shik Lim will!

If you like pop music, or even if you don't, the songs in this movie will stay in your head for days, and one way or another, find their way to your iPod.

Western viewers will enjoy Kim A-Jung's cover of the old Blondie song "Maria," and a totally new take on Ben E. Hill's R & B classic "Stand By Me" will make you first go "huh?" and then "Yeah!"

Echoed from
200 Pounds Beauty: Not Just a Rom-Com
 

Vinyl

O.G.
Dec 1, 2007
4,351
4
New York
I read somewhere that this movie was to set up Kim Ah Jung's music career. Either way, I really enjoyed it! I first saw this on while flying China Airlines -- get this, from the in-seat screen of person sitting in front of me. I could've watched it on my own screen, but the person already had it playing & I was already hooked so I continued to watch! I love "Maria" as well...
 

lostnexposed

Member
Sep 26, 2006
6,846
0
East Coast
LOL Vinyl!!! that's so funny! why didn't you just turn your in-screen on. it would have been much more comfortable.

and I liked that main theme song..i think it's called "byul"
 

MACsarah

BB+leather
O.G.
Sep 13, 2008
7,683
1
I'm actually watching this on google right now. thanks for telling us about it ;)