Wednesday, October 22, 2008

[TIFFCOM 2008 Review] Handsome Suits (ハンサム★スーツ)

Let's Handsome!

Handsome Suits might be Japan's answer to Korea's 200 Pounds Beauty, and given the success of the latter movie which deals with women's vanity in wanting to look good, this one is the equivalent, but centered on men instead, denying the focus on grooming as much as we like.

Face it, we're more than likely to turn the blind eye for someone who looks good. Maybe not necessarily drop dead gorgeous, so long as they're pleasing to the eye. The movie plays on the observation of how possessing good looks would open doors and help in getting a leg up in life, like a satire on the sad reality of life that is, but in its simplicity comes a well told story with plenty of pathos to think about, ranging from being true to oneself, and again a constant reminder not to judge a book by its cover.

Takuro Ohki (Muga Tsukaji) might be the ugliest chef around no thanks to his porky frame, but inside lies a sensitive man who stuck to a long held mantra of his late Ma's Taste at Ma's Price diner. Essentially a good man, he has no luck in love because of his lack of presentable looks, and romance is always far off in his mind. Tsukaji brings about some likability to this character, though I really must defer judgement to the ladies for frank opinions on whether they would date a guy who looks like that on first impressions, coupled with the propensity to stick his finger up his nostril (for a chef!).

Like a fantasy come true, this is pretty much done in Click fashion, with the all-powerful remote control being replaced by an all-powerful suit which looks like a cross between the Michelin Man and the stay-puff marshmallow man. Once worn and vacuumed fit, he becomes instantaneously transformed, voice included, to be as sexy as can be, with women literally swooning at his feet, and his opportunities to get in touch with the opposite sex suddenly increases manifold. As Annin Hikariyama (Shosuke Tanihara), he becomes the hottest sensation in the fashion circuit, and faster than you can say “Let's Handsome”, the coolest model in the business, Raika (Mayumi Sada) falls hard effortlessly to his charms.

It is easy to identify with Takuro's leading of a double life, one as the ugly chef, and the other as the handsome model on the brink of signing a multi-million dollar management deal. However, he's soon cradled with the mother of all dilemmas, with his ex-waitress Hiroko Hoshino (Keiko Kitagawa) rejecting both Takuro as well as Annin, which he cannot fathom why, and then his growing affection for fellow looks-challenged Motoe (Miyuki Oshima). As if leading one simple life is not enough, his honeymoon with his suit once over will bring some major headaches which he must address, sometimes with hilarious results, especially when dealing with the suit's vulnerability to hot water.

There are some opportunities for special effects, and these are done simply and to the point. What elevated this movie is its genuine comedy without trying to insult the audience's intelligence, especially when early on in the film he has to juggle with his newly established identity, lapsing constantly into his old self. Those who are keen-eyed will soon begin to see how the surprise of the movie would come as early as from the midway point. But don't go and look for such clues on purpose though, as it'll actually spoil the fun.

With a constant and not too sublime reminder on the need to appreciate the little things you do that matter, and the little joys that you can find along the way in life that is important to help keep spirits up. I particularly enjoyed that extended scene where Motoe plays a game with Takuro during their walk home, which serves as a powerful reminder to stop and smell the roses. Handsome Suits will be recommended stuff, should it make its way to Singapore. Don't leave the theatre just yet until after the end credits!

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