Director E. J-yong has embarked on quite an experiment with this mockumentary film. After all, we know each household and each film can only have one leading lady, and anything more will mean an expectation that claws will come out when disagreements fly. Here, he puts six actresses together in a film to share the limelight with one another, each being a star of their respective generation, coming together for a faux pas Vogue fashion pictorial shoot one Christmas eve. This means tremendous effort in massaging all the egos that get brought to the table, and done in an improvisational manner, scenes are laid out and the actresses are given a free rein to do as they please.
Starring Kim Ok-vin (straight after Thirst, which got referenced and with a “Song Kang-ho” making a call to her early in the film – we don't hear him though), Choi Ji-woo, Ko Hyeon-jeong, Yoon Yeo-jeong, Kim Min-hee and Lee Mi-sook, the opening scene focused on their coming together to the Vogue studio filled with tension and anxiety pangs, each agreeing to take up the offer of a joint photo spread based on the theme that they are collectively better than gems, and wondering who the other “competitors”will be, as they soon learn the collective group is drawn from different generations from those in the 20s right up to the 60s.
It's difficult to determine whether certain things that are said and done are actually occurring naturally, or masked under a veneer. After all, the actresses here are well, actresses, and it's anyone's guess if the emotions on display are genuine, or had gone through some internal cleansing before being let loose in front of the camera. Even during the makeup and wardrobe stage before the shoot proper, claws already get sharpened as they launch into smiles on one hand, and on the other come the bitching about things like plastic surgery, and comparisons abound with who's being perceived as granted preferential treatment over the others.
It's extremely tense for anyone having to manage everybody, and the Vogue editors and crew have to each tread very carefully lest anyone decides to walk out on them and cause a delay in their deadline. One should take note though of everything that's happening in the background as well, because while the action might be centered on the screen, the background also has a lot more to offer when reading the expressions of other actresses not involved in what's being the centre of attraction. Particularly interesting in the first half prior to the individual, eye-candy photography session, is how they launch into a tirade on their peers who only have to rely on their good looks, and without substance, to make it in their industry these days, and we also learn that having worked on projects together previously will help cement some informal alliance amongst the actresses against others not in the clique.
The second half though is where this film turns into a gem, even though it meant taking place predominantly around a dinner table with the group of 6 having a decent conversation about life, their industry and their own attitudes, aspirations and fears. It is this commentary at this point which provides some fascinating insights into the psyche of the Korean star system, and where you, for once, feel the actresses not just as actresses, but people with whom you can identify with, being the misunderstood lot that they are, with every move and especially mistakes made being amplified for public criticism. Yes while they may still be putting their acting cap on, there are some genuine emotions on display here which director E. J-yong had managed to capture
They come in as feisty adversaries, and walk away enlightened with valuable lessons and realization that we as the audience will hopefully take away as well. There may be another film made on the same premise and context, but this marks quite the bold step in putting more than enough women together under the same limelight to elicit a response, and what a response this had turned out to be!