May 30, 2015

Actresses: The Factor of Six

Six real-life actresses are invited to a photo shoot for the cover of Vogue Korea. So... Paint on that jungle red nail polish and let the DIVA WARS begin! Well, kinda. More like, Lee Je-yong invites six real-life actresses to improvise a movie about six actresses (modeled after themselves) doing a photo shoot for Vogue. And most of the time, everyone plays pretty nicely. Which isn't to say that the resultant Actresses is without some display of leading lady ego conflict. Choi Ji-woo intentionally arrives late and wants her own dressing room with a masseuse; Go Hyun-jung gets drunk and lashes out at rival Choi; Yoon Yeo-jeong, the grande dame of them all, gossips endlessly, especially about her own insecurities about being invited to the shoot so late in the game. But overall this group of women is surprisingly civil. Repeatedly offered opportunities to create drama, they repeatedly choose to make nice and make friends.

Director Lee doesn't fight their collective impulse to bond but wisely shifts his objective, allowing the six women an extended, impromptu celebratory feast that has them meditating on the nature of celebrity, jealousy, and age over Craft Service snacks and Don Perignon champagne. Yoon (because of her years in the biz) gives the most nuanced and consistently ironic performance with her mixture of hauteur and insecurity while the quirky Kim Ok-bin, the youngest on set, steals focus with slyly complementary moments that convey the mind of an innocent trickster. Although Go seems most at ease with the setup —attributable to her work with Song Sang-soo, a filmmaker whose work feels largely improvisational — she takes a back seat during "table talk" while 50-something Lee Mi-sook comes to the fore.

The final actress in the group, Kim Min-hee, might be easily forgotten if it weren't for the individual photos sessions encapsulated within the film. With haute couture bunny ears and a cupcake topped by vanilla icing, Kim comes alive before the camera, once she's free from the competitive aspect organic to improvising among such a cast. Which isn't to say that she's not good in the group scenes. She simply chooses to play a chorus role: Watch her sitting quietly as the others ham it up and you'll see that she's actually grounding the action. Now that's one selfless actress!

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