December 21, 2012

Little Black Dress: Four Soulless Bitches Want to Be Famous

Writer-director Heo In-mu's chick flick Little Black Dress has two characters worthy of screen time: Yeong-mi (Choi Yoon-young) a needy, aspiring screenwriter who wonders if her failure to get her ideas heard or to secure a promotion despite years of devotion is all because she just isn't that pretty. Her attempts to befriend the prize-winning new staff-member Yoo-min (Yun Eun-hye) don't get very far and even on her most suicidal day, she can't get much of a kind word from the colleague she so badly idolizes. The other fascinating character doesn't even have a name. She's simply a writer, who I assume is working on a soap opera. Broadly played by Jeon Soo-kyeong, this woman parades across the old screen like old Hollywood, milking not-so-hot one-liners for all they're worth, and generally making everyone else on screen look very community theater. That she also shows a sensitive side later on isn't a relief. It's a verification that you can paint with broad strokes without having to forego smaller touches when they're called for. Either of these women could have led to interesting stories but neither is primary role. Sadder still, they never have a scene with each other. For reasons that will dumbfound most viewers, Heo instead keeps her camera on four other, very less richly drawn ingenues, a quarter of narcissistic, hard-hearted gorgons who can imagine no fate worse than seeing a friend succeed and ending up in the shadow.

A certain poetic justice exists in having the one who appears the least talented -- the beauty of the bunch, Hye-ji -- land her fortune as a Levi's jeans model discovered at a nightclub. But even so, that little concession to the ironies of life, is unlikly to make you warm up to the soulless scribe Yoo-min, the wooden artiste living in poverty Soo-jin (Cha ye-ryeon) or the rich girl with a thing for underage boys Min-hee (Yoo In-na). Each character is hatable in her own way and whether Heo wrote Little Black Dress as a way to wreak revenge on former colleagues in her drama department or because she doesn't see just how monstrous these egomaniacs are is anyone's guess. There's a misplaced affection for the four girlfriends that definitely points to the second conjecture. For the love of God, I hope I'm wrong. No one that shallow is lovable. (Which means you'd never blame self-centered Lee Yong-woo for cheating on Yoo-min. You'd praise him. Only pain could help these four women mature if they ever do at all.)

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