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[MOVIE REVIEW] 'Gold Digger' buffs Han's charm, but misses

2007/12/17 Source

In "Miss Gold Digger" ("Yonguijudo Miss Shin"), Han Ye-seul dominates the running time -- for 98 percent, to be exact -- as a likable beauty who compares and contrasts four different potential Mr. Rights.

But the movie's heroine Shin Mi-su played by Han is not an original character. Rather it's a combination of Kim Ah-joong, who hit it big early this year with "200 Pounds Beauty" featuring herself as a symbol of transformation through plastic surgery, and Jun Ji-hyun, who represents a cranky yet enchanting beauty, as showcased in the classic romantic comedy "My Sassy Girl".

When Shin puts on chic dresses and sexy club outfits, she looks like Kim A-jung's after-surgery version. And when Shin throws up something unmentionable to a man after heavy drinking, she seems to imitate what Jun Ji-hyun did to Cha Tae-hyun in the notorious subway scene.

But Han Ye-seul is neither Kim Ah-joong nor Jun Ji-hyun. All three of the actresses are regarded as similarly iconic beauties in the country's entertainment industry, but placing Han's big-screen debut squarely between Kim and Jeon does not help her cut an original character.

Instead of cultivating a unique character, director Park Yong-jib focuses on the personal charm of Han Ye-seul, who tiptoes, runs, screams and stumbles to flesh out a highly stereotyped Shin Mi-su, who is juggling shaky relationships with four different men in order to catch the ideal spouse.

Shin Mi-su, an up-and-coming advertising specialist, is keen to attract a superrich chaebol family member (played by Kwon Oh-jung) by doing some volunteer work in a bid to accentuate her angelic image.

But she does not bet on a single candidate. One of her hedges is a bespectacled, dorky student (Kim In-kwon) who is preparing to pass the state bar exam -- a quick gateway to wealth and power in Korea. She constantly eggs and nudges him to study hard to pass the exam. Her devotion to such a long-term investment has a clear purpose: to become a wife of a powerful prosecutor.

At the same time, Shin half-heartedly hangs out with a handsome rapper (Son Ho-young, former singer of the top music group G.O.D.), just for fun.

The relationships become complicated when Shin encounters a fourth contender (Lee Jong-hyuk), a neighbor in the same apartment complex who happens to hold the key to one of her advertising projects.

As the storyline unabashedly revolves around Shin's quest for an ideal man, the camera hardly moves away from her to the four male characters, who are largely treated as mere sidekicks.

So the question is how Shin's "one-woman show" is incorporated into the simplistic plot, and the general impression is that Shin is a character that is at least hard to hate. The decisive factor is Han's willingness to embrace even screwball and slapstick gags, counterbalancing the sugarcoated screen shots stressing her shining beauty.

But since her devil-may-care acts are exaggerated too much too often, Shin fails to produce the much-needed genuine comic relief. The real laughter often comes from a sidelined male character, notably the chaebol family member. Kwon Oh-jung's restrained yet hilarious depiction of the wealthy guy with a hand fetish is bound to hit the funny bone of audiences bored with Shin's endless on-screen fashion show.

But what's really laughable involves the film's shambolic product placement. In the film, a sizable amount of precious screen time is devoted to KTF, a major mobile phone company.

Even considering that the film's distributor Sidus FHN is owned by KT, a telecom giant which also controls KTF, the film goes far beyond usual product placement norms to the annoyance of audiences. It features the mobile carrier's third-generation service extensively and repeatedly -- going the opposite way of successful product placement's subtle and unobtrusive techniques.

There is even a horrifying scene where Shin reads the exact PR materials for KTF's "Show" brand in the name of demonstrating her presentation skills in front of the telecom carrier's executives. It's nothing more than a pathetic 'show' for local moviegoers who have already been bombarded with the same KTF advertisements in recent months.

So here's a revised summary of the movie: In "Miss Gold Digger", Han Ye-seul and KTF's not-so-funny product placement jointly dominate the running time of 108 minutes.

By Yang Sung-jin

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