Sunday, November 3, 2013

Reel Asian 2013 Film Review - How to Use Guys With Secret Tips

Bona (Si-Young Lee) is an unnoticed second assistant director for a television commercial production company. She is a glorified production assistant that works long days for little pay or recognition. While on a commercial shoot she is reintroduced to Lee Seung Jae (Jung-se Oh) a major commercial and soap opera star who just 5 years ago was trying to impress Bona to secure an acting job. Seeing him again reminds Bona of how much of her rut her career is in thanks to the men in her life.  After falling asleep at a beachside shooting location far away from Seoul Bona encounters a mysterious salesman with a camper full of self help videos.  She chooses the package on controlling men plus a bonus Where's Waldo book. Following  a night of viewing Bona is armed with new tools that work on the first field test eventually helping to move out of the shadows and into prominence as a director.

Director Wonsuk Lee has crafted a farcical tale that includes most of major elements of a romantic comedy. Bo Na is the overworked under appreciated introverted female that gets the male star to notice her and even create a rivalry with his arch nemesis for her attention. The twist to the piece is the Secret Tips tape series presented by Dr. Swalski who appears throughout the film blending into scenes to take Bona through the steps accompanied by his western male and female actors. In one memorable sequence he imparts a piece of knowledge to Bona in a fast food restaurant dressed as a server from behind the counter ending with him yelling at the customers in the long line that they should make their food themselves and that he does not work here.

Wonsuk Lee co wrote the script with Hye-yeong No and Ha Soon-jin. The opening sections of the screenplay work well. The film moves quickly to the tips that are presented in the first two acts of the piece. The material contains several subtle comedic moments that the viewer could easily miss if not paying close attention. The pages are full of several antidotes of how men and women view the same situation from different angles. The Emotion Change Graph complete with a male and female prop is a key element in Dr. Swarlski presentation.

The wardrobe department played a major part in the film. Bona starts out as pullover clad mess with tuffs of hair sticking out to represent the fact that she is working long days and does not get the opportunity to expand her wardrobe. As she moves through the tapes her confidence grows leading her to dress in blouses and skirts. Soon she moves on to more elegant clothing as her fame as a director grows. Lee Seung Jae also has multiple wardrobe outfits as the leading celebrity icon and self proclaimed fashionista behind his ever present oversized dark glasses. Bona is also often dressed in yellow, which is used as an important plot device in two instances in the film. Self help Guru Swarlski dons many costumes as well. From a fast food order taker as mentioned above to assorted bright shirts and jackets normally featuring a bow tie with the flare of Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka.

Cinematographer Sun Ryung Kim shoots many scenes with a dark blue hue that gives the film a certain character. The look of the piece is often very bright including the night scene that are often back lit, sharp and crisp. The main recurring set is Bo Na's home featuring the sloped stairs and gate leading up to her front door. The front section of the location is used for several scenes including a critical one between Bo Na and Lee Seung Jae.

Si Young Lee shows her range as an actor in the lead role. She is very believable as the quiet biddable second AD in the opening section of the film. She also portrays each stage of her characters growth creditably. The audience is on board with Bo Na equally as a scattered marginalized obedient gopher at the outset of the production as they are when she transforms into a relaxed decisive acclaimed director. Park Young Gyu is particularly strong as How To Guru Dr. Swarlski especially when he leaps from the T.V screen to show up in scenes to present his tips in real time.

Wonsuk Lee has taken a difference look at the romantic comedy in How to use Guys with Secret Tips.   Lee takes some risks with the piece and the result borders on a screwball comedy. The film has some good elements but the 113 minute run time is just too long for the subject matter and some viewers will loose in the last half hour. The film goes in a new direction that is just not needed. It's a good effort, the tips and instructions on the videos are a delight and presented well but without a serious edit it is not a film that I can recommend.

** 1/2 Out of 4.

How to Use Guys with Secret Tips | Wonksuk Lee | South Korea | 2013| 113 Minutes.

How to tapes, Self Help Guru, Game Show,  Sexism, Soap Opera, Television Commercial Director, Glass Ceiling, Award Show.

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