Sunday, October 21, 2012

200 Pounds Beauty (live action movie), via Crunchyroll

200 Pounds Beauty (or 200 Pound Beauty, how it's written on Crunchyroll) is a Korean movie that's a little hard for me to classify. I suppose comedy, or maybe even romantic comedy, would be appropriate. The problem with "romantic comedy," though, is that it sets up viewers to expect something they're not going to get, namely an ending in which Hanna ends up with someone. This is a spoiler, but an important one, so I'm going to say this right now: no, Hanna does not end up with Sang-jun, nor anyone else. That's not necessarily a bad thing, and the ending was still a happy one, with the potential for a romance HEA (Happily Ever After) on the horizon. Still, this movie may disappoint those looking for a traditional romance movie ending.


Hanna is an overweight young lady with a sweet voice and two jobs. One job involves providing phone sex to various clients. The other job, which Hanna sees as her primary job, involves providing Ammy, a famous pop star, with her voice. Ammy dances on stage and mouths the words, while Hanna sings in the back. Every one of Ammy's albums is actually sung by Hanna.

Hanna doesn't mind doing this, is even happy doing this, because it allows her to sing and because she has a huge crush on Sang-jun (Ammy's manager? producer? I'm not sure, but he seems to handle more of the business and talent-finding side of things). Sang-jun is so kind and supportive that Hanna can't help but think maybe he actually likes her back...until she overhears Sang-jun tell Ammy that they're only using her for her voice and must be kind to her so she doesn't leave.

A distraught Hanna first tries to kill herself and then heads off to one of her phone sex clients, a plastic surgeon, and demands that he perform full-body plastic surgery on her in order to make her beautiful. The doctor reluctantly agrees and, one year later, a much thinner Hanna heads out into the world. With the help of her friend, Jung-min, she gets her old job back by pretending to be a Korean American named Jenny. Sang-jun pretty much abandons Ammy in favor of Jenny, promoting her as an all-natural, fresh-faced beauty. Jenny becomes a huge star, but the lies she has to tell and the people in her life she feels she has to reject in order to achieve that fame all weigh heavily on her. With a jealous Ammy in the sidelines, doing her best to collect evidence than Jenny is really Hanna, and Sang-jun slowly connecting the dots, will Hanna's glamorous new life unravel?


I knew watching this would probably make me angry, but I added it to my queue anyway. Most of the movie did make me grind my teeth, although I have to admit that there were parts near the end that actually made me cry. I'm not sure, though, whether those parts near the end were worth the time it took to watch the whole movie.

The beginning was almost painful to watch. Hanna was incredibly awkward, and I hated seeing other characters laugh at her. Her life was just sad. Her jobs were designed so that, for the most part, few people had to see her. Hanna's previous “boyfriend” was a diet pill salesman who used her affection for him to convince her to buy pills until he finally abandoned her. After he left, she tried to kill herself. And, I'm sorry, but Hanna was not fat enough for several of the fat jokes the movie used. The EMTs should have been able to move her without too much fuss, and the stage Hanna danced on would have had to have been rotted or super cheap for her to have broken through it.

Just like Hanna wasn't fat enough for those jokes to be believable, she wasn't beautiful enough for some of the jokes after her plastic surgery. The car accident scene was just odd. It was like post-surgery Hanna had some kind of force-field of protection that made all men in her vicinity treat her better, despite the accident having been her fault, and despite the other guy's steadily bleeding head wound. If the movie hadn't already lost me by that point, I might have found that scene to be funnier than I did.

Sang-jun seemed nice enough, at first, but, since I was expecting the upcoming scene with Ammy, I was suspicious of him from the moment he appeared. It's possible that some of his words to Ammy were lies meant to convince Ammy to continue with the charade, but some of his hurtful words were definitely true. Had he recognized post-surgery Hanna right away, based on her voice, and then done some groveling, Sang-jun maybe could have redeemed himself in my eyes. As it was, his nickname in my notes was “Jerkface,” and, despite his handsomeness, I spent a good chunk of the movie hoping some other guy would magically appear, cause Hanna to come to her senses, and steal her away from Sang-jun.

I hated how the movie dealt with love and its less-than-movie-star-pretty characters. There were three total suicide attempts, all of which were the result of being dumped. Hanna tried to kill herself when her diet pill salesman “boyfriend” dumped her. Then she tried to kill herself again when she learned that Sang-jun was only using her. Hanna's friend, Jung-min, tried to kill herself (I think) when her sauna salesman “boyfriend” dumped her. Hanna's plastic surgery could be considered a fourth suicide attempt, in a way, because she was warned prior to the procedures that full-body plastic surgery could potentially kill her. In the real world, I'm pretty sure all that surgery in such a short period of time would have killed her.

I hated watching Hanna reject her beloved dog, her best friend, and her father, who I think had dementia (he tended to mistake Hanna for his wife), in order to keep her secret. Those scenes were even worse when juxtaposed with her occasional moments of awesomeness – I loved when she blackmailed the plastic surgeon without batting an eye, and I loved when she went after Jung-min's “boyfriend” after he dumped Jung-min. Why couldn't Hanna have been that awesome where Sang-jun was concerned? She should have left him in her dust.

There were bits near the end that I found to be touching and that had me in tears, but I can't really say that the movie redeemed itself. Watching post-surgery Hanna publicly mourn the loss of pre-surgery Hanna inspired a good cry on my part, but it also served as a reminder that pre-surgery Hanna wasn't coming back. Even if Hanna and Sang-jun ended up together, even if Sang-jun swore he fell in love with Hanna-the-person and not Hanna's post-surgery body, I wouldn't be able to believe it. The movie tried to play Hanna's success as being something she achieved as herself, rather than as Jenny, but, the fact was, she still had her post-surgery body. No matter what the movie seemed to want to say, I couldn't believe that Hanna's success wasn't still based at least in part on her new-found skinniness. The bit near the end, in which Jung-min went to Hanna's plastic surgeon to ask for full-body surgery herself didn't help my impression of the movie.

The resolution to Hanna and Sang-jun's romance was both something I thought the movie did right and something I viewed as a potential slap in viewers' faces. If you go into this movie expecting a traditional romantic ending, you may come away from it unhappy, since Sang-jun and Hanna do not end up together. However, I was glad that they didn't and that Hanna seemed oblivious to Sang-jun's interest in her. I could imagine that, in the future, she gained strength that wasn't solely based on her skinny new appearance. I could imagine that she made Sang-jun grovel a lot before finally agreeing to date him. I could even imagine that she fell in love with someone else, causing Sang-jun to stew in his own jealousy, kicking himself over everything he screwed up while he was earning the nickname Jerkface.

All in all, I suppose I can at least be glad this was a movie and not a TV series – it only took a couple hours to watch. Kim Ah-joong (who played Hanna) was really adorable at times, and I enjoyed her singing. Unfortunately, there was just so much of the film that I couldn't stand.

Watch-alikes and Read-alikes:
  • Shallow Hal (live action movie) - A guy who formerly dated only skinny, physically beautiful women begins seeing women's "inner beauty" after being hypnotized, and falls in love with a 300-pound woman.
  • At Face Value (book) by Emily Franklin - Another story in which the main character pretends to be someone she's not. She ends up winning the love of the guy she likes, but what will he do when he finds out the truth? This book is based, somewhat, on the play Cyrano de Bergerac, only it's gender-flipped and has a happy ending. The main character, Cyrie, has a huge nose she hates and wants to deal with via plastic surgery. I have written about this book.
  • Fairest (book) by Gail Carson Levine - Another story in which the main female character believes she is ugly, provides another character with her voice, and eventually changes her own appearance in the hope of improving her life. I've written about this book.
  • The Little Mermaid (non-Japanese animated movie) - Hanna's reaction, right after getting out of the hospital, reminded me a lot of Ariel's reaction to getting legs. Both of them changed their appearance so they could get the guy they want and live the life they want. I don't remember The Little Mermaid making me as upset as 200 Pounds Beauty, though.

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