The Handsome Suit



Market screening, Tokyo International Film Festival

TOKYO, Japan -- A porky bachelor transforms into a dashing model after donning a magic outfit in "The Handsome Suit," a fantasy-burlesque that sends up the modeling world and our beauty-obsessed society. Tsutomu Hanabusa's debut is energetically performed, visually vibrant and revels in its gag-dominated variety show humor.

Although Japanese critics predicted moderate boxoffice for its November domestic release, the film had overseas buyers in stitches. Distributor Asmik Ace reportedly got a rush of offers at Tokyo's Tiff-com market, and sold to at least five countries. It could enjoy similar popularity and remake potential of Korean hit "200 Pounds Beauty," which sports the same "Pygmalion" concept with a fat heroine becoming a pop diva after plastic surgery.

Diner boss Takuro (Muga Tsukaji), or "Butaro" (pig) as he is nicknamed for his gross physique, is loved for his homey dishes, but rejected by all girls, including his part-timer Hiroko, who ran away when Takuro confessed he adored her beauty. His luck changes when he is picked to test-wear a rubber suit that resembles the Michelin Man, and morphs into a handsome dude fitted with cool-sounding name "Annin" (Shosuke Tanihara).

When Annin gets scouted as a model, women suddenly are all over him like a cheap suit. But will that help him find the girl of his dreams? Who will it be -- supermodel Raika, the frumpy but compatible new part-timer Motoe, or the missing Hiroko?

The female roles are surprising sympathetic for this kind of farcical comedy: Hiroko refuses to be taken at face value; glamor-pus Raika is not a bimbo as she loves Annin's jokes, not his image; Motoe is not a doormat but a truly desirable companion.

While dramatic focus falls evenly on Takuro and Annin, the latter is the more colorful character. Tanihara adds large doses of cartoonish pastiche to a role that partly recalls his early modeling career. His adept incorporation of Takuro's body language and traits like nose picking and gruff Osaka accent into his "handsome" persona is the strongest comic component.

Tohokushinsha Film Corporation/Thermal Corporation/Asmik Ace Entertainment, Inc./Sumitomo Corporation/Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) Inc./Dentsu Inc./WOWWOW Inc/Kansai Telecasting Corporation.
Cast: Shosuke Tanihara, Muga Tsukaji, Mayumi Sada, Miyuki Oshima, Keiko Kitagawa.
Director: Tsutomu Hanabusa.
Screenwriter and based on the novel by: Osamu Suzuki.
Producer: Masako Yamada.
Executive Producers: Masao Teshima, Yoshio Osawa, Kohei Takenaka, Yuji Shimamoto, Nobuya Wazaki, Tsuneo Betsumoto, Noritaka Yamaji, Hiroaki Kitano.
Director of Photography: Mitsuru Komiyama, Satoshi Kitagawa.
Production Designer: Toru Yoshida
Music: Daisuke Kawaguchi.
Costume designer: Kyu, Reika Ijima.
Editor: Shuichi Kakesu.
Sales: Asmik Ace Entertainment, Inc..
No rating, 115 minutes.