Miss Gold Digger
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HONG KONG -- Although it's been done many times before, a romantic comedy with a chameleon heroine juggling several suitors while her perfect match is right under her nose can still be a pleasure when handled with sophistication and joie de vivre.
Developed from an award-winning screenplay, "Miss Gold Digger" has joie de vivre but not enough sophistication. Where there should be risque repartee and sexy shenanigans, director Park Yong-jib simply dishes out run-of-the-mill sitcom fare. Luckily, leading lady Han Ye-seul's likable mixture of self-possession and self-doubt and her character's growth enables her to carry the story through to its enlightened ending. Although meant mainly for domestic consumption, casting of the winsome TV star Han might expand its release potential in Asian territories.
The film's English title suggests that it's a modern Korean variation on Hollywood screwball comedies like "How to Marry a Millionaire." That's a bit misleading as "Miss Gold Digger" is less a satire on women's vanity than a reflection on women's insecurity. The heroine Shin Mi-soo (Han) is not really after money. She's just looking for Mr. Right. By film's end, it transpires that it is not so much a guide to seducing Mr. Perfect as a lesson on how to live with imperfection manifested in others and in one's own self.
Mi-soo has three choices: a millionaire who wants to turn every date into a Korean TV soap, a geeky law student who keeps flunking his bar exams and a hip rapper with rippling muscles. The fact that they all turn out to be Mr. Wrong is a foregone conclusion in this genre. It's a drawback to the plot that the male love interests are rather lame.
What's interesting, though, is the way Mi-soo strings men along by being all things to all people -- a demure philanthropist to the millionaire, a strict coach to the law student and a foxy club-animal to the rapper. It's also a good excuse for numerous costume changes. Costumer Kim Kyung-mi did her homework on Shin's wardrobe, and she does look fabulous in all her poses.
With a brisk rhythm and an effective editing, the film packs in a fair amount of comic scrapes plus dream sequences -- though some might be better left at the editing table -- before getting to its roundabout message that women suppress their true selves to live up to male fantasy.
In fact, Mi-soo is only her true self in the company of her Mr. Darcy-like neighbor-cum-business client Dong-min (Lee Jong-hyuk), but he makes her suffer for her every goof -- until she agrees to put on a pretense as his girlfriend at a family dinner. But Mi-soo's character does grow, from believing that "there's always a man behind a woman's happiness" to someone who ultimately takes a stand similar to Nora's in "A Doll's House."
MISS GOLD DIGGER
Sidus FNH Corp./Rod Pictures
Executive producers: Tcha Sung-jae & Kim Mi-hee
Director of photography: Kim Hak-su
Director: Park Yong-jib
Art direction: Min Jung-ki
Sound: Jungkun (live)
Music: Jo Young-ook
Screenwriter: Park Eun-young
Costumes: Kim Kyung-mi
Light: Seo Jung-dal
Shin Mi-soo: Han Ye-seul
Joon-seo: Kwon Oh-joong
Yoon-chul: Kim In-kwon
Hyun-joon: Son Ho-young
Dong-min: Lee Jong-hyuk