Sunday, December 07, 2008

[Asian Festival of 1st Films] Miss Gold Digger (Yonguijudo Miss Shin)

No Money No Honey

The title says it all, about a woman who holds out from commitment because she's always in the hopes of snagging somewhere better, given the vast playing field out there from which to fish not only the rich, but in her own words, those with “money, future, power”. The cynical me wonders if this was the nail hit squarely on the head, that these are the secret underlying criteria these days before a woman would say yes. And if seeking out that someone would not be enough, as a guarantee, she even sows her own seeds, and cultivates her own venture with one of her longtime male friends.

This is the story of Shin Mi-Su (Han Ye-seul) who when young dreams of being a real life Cinderalla, Snow White and Juliet, since after all their lovers were rich princes to boot. She's successful in her career in an ad agency, and with her gorgeous good looks, it provides an additional plus point naturally. But while she's pretty on the outside, she's really ugly on the inside, and this film chronicles how this duality and hypocrisy comes into play in almost all situations in her life.

Han Ye-seul, who's up in the running for Best Actress in this year's AFFF, shows off her excellent acting with her two-faced, highly manipulative role, and does so effortlessly through her saucer eyes as they often betray (for the audience's benefit) her innermost thoughts and desires. Like Son Ye-jin's role in The Art of Seduction, Ye-seul's Mi-Su masters the art of seduction strategies in order to get her own way, or to obtain unfair advantages. If it's not money she's after, then it's the strings to be pulled one day.

So who are those set in her sights? Jun-seo (Kwon Oh-jung) the rich man looks like an automatic shoo-in with his expensive gifts, but his gruff exterior plants some doubts in her. It's not just enough to be loaded, but she wants to have the cake and eat it as well. Then there's the club rapper Hyeon-jun (Son Ho-young) who provides her the attention at the club, but that's just her fling at night when out having fun. And if you think a character like Mi-Su is desperate, look no further for proof than to entice her childhood friend Yun-cheol (Kim In-kwon) to pass the Bar exam and work his way up to District Attorney before she would even consider him as a life long partner, and goes all her way out in order to ensure that this plan succeeds. Which of course buys her time to look around for quicker ways to success of course.

Then there's the new neighbour Dong-min (Lee Jong-hyeok) whom she starts off with the wrong footing, and always seem to be catching her at her worst behaviour. Her charms don't work, and this set up provides for some hilarious comic moments, which work because of Han Ye-seul's perfect timing. Given the limited scenes they act opposite each other, since her time is split rather evenly amongst all potential suitors, don't be expecting any great chemistry to be established. For all its feminist ra-ra with an alpha female in clear control over the exploitation of her sexuality and beauty, the film somehow retracts to romantic-comedy formula with some rather plain development mid way through the show, thereby leaving it devoid of any gravitas.

Which means as a pure popcorn date movie, this works perfectly despite of its rather unresolved, open ending, that seems to echo some of the insecurities and indecisiveness that women perhaps face from time to time with regards to choosing, and whether they have made the right choice. So if you subscribe to what what this movie showcased, which is “money, fame and power”, then boys out there should better beware. 5Cs these days aren't enough, but the all encompassing three conditions spelt out, should.

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