Director: OH Ki-hwan
Cast: JOO Won, AHN Jae-hyeon, SULLI, PARK Se-young
Runtime: 1 hr 59 mins
Rating: NC-16 (Some Coarse Language)
Released By: Golden Village Pictures & Clover Films
Opening Day: 12 March 2015
Synopsis: With a pair of thick glasses and stuffy appearance to boot, high school student Gi-myeong is mercilessly teased by his classmates on a daily basis at a rural provincial high school, until he jumps on a chance to transfer to a hip high school in Gangnam, Seoul. At the new school, he comes across the girl of his dreams – Hye-jin – who is a beautiful online starlet. For a nobody like Gi-myeong, he can’t even get close to her due to her massive popularity. As if that was bad enough, her boyfriend is not only one of the smartest students in school, son of wealthy family, but professional model Won-ho. But not the one to let the girl of his dreams just slip through, he vows to transform himself and be a man whom she can admire and be with. Gi-myeong begs his mom for an expensive trendy jacket, but when he finds out that the one he received is a fake, he marches into the retail company to complain. There, he meets a fashionista named Nam-jung, who teaches him the essences of fashion, such as ‘cool’ and ‘tight’. What started as a ploy to get a girl’s attention, Gi-myeong begins to get noticed by his classmates. With poses and styles that only he can pull off, he becomes good friends with Hye-jin, in addition to gaining reputation as a forward-thinking fashionista. Not only that, he fends off Won-ho when he finds Won-ho bullying fellow students, which got him even more fame and street creds. As his reputation grows, Hye-jin becomes more and more interested in Gi-myeong. Hye-jin’s growing interest irritates Won-ho to no end, and the two fashionistas become arch-rivals, and face off every chance they get to obtain the coveted ‘Fashion King’ title. But as Gi-myeong’s fame overflows onto the internet, peers from his old school recognize him and upload devastatingly demoralizing video of Gi-myeong as he is teased and bullied. Won-ho finds out about Gi-myeong’s past and begins to openly share this with the entire school. Thinking that he has left his past life behind him, Gi-myeong now faces the biggest threat of his life. Hye-jin once again goes back to ignoring him, and the only people who stand by him at this moment of despair are Eun-jin, the best and nerdiest student of the school, his friend Chang-ju and his mom. With their support, he vows never to run away from this. With the ‘tightness’ he is born with, with his libertarian ideas, and with his ‘coolness’, Gi-myeong’s battle with Won-ho begins at the ‘Fashion King’ competition… With the help of Nam-jung, Gi-myeong passes countless qualifying matches, and realizes what ‘tight’ really means. Seeing his face on TV piques Hye-jin’s attention, but he realizes that it is Eun-jin whom he loves. Finally, Gi-myeong and Won-ho head for the final round. Unfazed by Won-ho’s threats and violence, Gi-myeong enters the finals with incredible conviction as a chance to transform himself into someone he really is in his heart… .
South Korea is no stranger to producing humourous and entertaining movies like ‘200 Pounds Beauty (2006)’, ‘My Girlfriend is an Agent (2009)’ and more. These have definitely caught our attention in the past years. The nonsensical humour and slapstick comedy which worked for them were also characteristic of Fashion King.
The film centres Gi-myeong (played by Joo Won), who was the subject of bully and always told to run errands by his classmates. However he’s out for a new beginning when he moved to Seoul. There he started to want to become like those people of the ‘royal stream’, who dress stylishly as though trotting down a fashion runway.
On his attempt to buy a branded down jacket, he realized he bought an imitation on interrogation by a fashion wannabe (played by Shin Ju-hwan). Determined to get his money back, Gi-myeong went to the warehouse to confront the owner. Little did he know that this would be the changing point of his life! Owner and fashionista Kim Nam-jung (played by Kim Sung-oh) showed both of them what real dopeness is about – it’s not about the brand, but how one coordinates and wear them. Gi-myeong and Chang-joo became Nam-jung’s disciples, quickly gaining popularity and following at school.
The story goes on to the usual plot twist, where the wound bore by the protagonist was revisited and his world came crashing again. In this case, Gi-myeong’s past was exposed by Won-ho (played by Ahn Jae-hyun), who was getting green eyed and threatened by the attention Gi-myeong was receiving. As cowardly as Gi-myeong was, he wanted to break out of this cycle as he found what he could find confidence in – fashion.
In terms of the development in romance, there was already some undercurrents going on since Gi-myeong and Eun-jin (played by Sulli) first met as neighbours. Eun-jin found an uncanny connection with Gi-myeong and silently supported him through his pursuit of fashion. Eventually Eun-jin too, underwent a transformation by Nam-jung, and communicated her feelings to Gi-myeong.
On the other hand, Won-ho was still trying to sabotage Gi-myeong as they both got shortlisted as the final candidates of a reality TV show competing to become the ‘Fashion King’. While Won-ho continually issue threats, Gi-myeong only grew stronger with the support of his loved ones. At the latter part of the movie, Fashion King did grow a little too (intentionally) melodramatic as it tries to focus on the value of the support of family and friends.
The film has quite an interesting ensemble of cast, with Sulli of popular Korean girl group f(x) playing a role of a nerdy girl, Joo-Won (who we think really looks like Bigbang’s TOP at certain angles!) and Ahn Jae-hyun, a real-life professional model. There’s nothing extremely outstanding about their acting which deserves special mention, but at least they are pretty pleasing to the eyes.
The greatest shortcoming of Fashion King is its failure to bring the characters to full flesh. While the story was adopted from a Webcomic, the characters were under developed and still felt two-dimensional. The storyline also did not support the development much, as it was built to be more to entertain and sensationalize than to deliver a real ‘plot’. Nonetheless, Fashion King did make it to the mark of an average South Korean rom-com.
(Lacklustre as it is, their greatest weapon to win, is ‘dopeness’)
Review by Tho Shu Ling