NOT THE YOO AH IN DRAMA
Bullied at his old school, Woo Ki Myung (Joo Won) transfers to a new high school for a fresh start. He becomes interested in fashion in order to attract the school’s popular girl, Park Hye Jin (Park Se Young) and learns that he’s able to change his loser status by becoming the its top fashion icon with the help of his mentor, Kim Nam Jung (Kim Sung Oh), and friends, Kwak Eun Jin (Choi Sulli) and Kim Chang Joo (Shin Ju Hwan). Unfortunately, Ki Myung provokes the ire from the high school’s popular kid and fashion icon, Kim Won Ho (Ahn Jae Hyun).
Fashion King seems to bring alive the extreme world of the webtoon with its rapidly edited reaction shots, bizarre fashion pieces and colorful reality show commentary. It is somewhat of a conjecture but I could see a cult following of fans for this movie who also loved the original webtoon series. For the rest of us, I found the erratic pacing of the movie to be partly amusing, partly jarring as it overshadowed the emotional elements of the story.
The movie has two major contradicting themes that butt heads with each other to provide an interesting debate. They are mainly the superficial nature of the fashion world matched against the insecurities of the bully and the bullied.
I can’t quite pinpoint why I always find bully plotlines interesting. Perhaps it’s the fact that we often get to see the underdog win. But as far as bully genres go, I would prefer to see the bully and bullied who aren’t so obvious in their characterization in films. Unfortunately, the movie glosses over the glitzy world of this quirky high school to really dig deep into the characters’ backstory.
While I adore Ahn Jae Hyun, Kim Won Ho is thoroughly unlikeable throughout the film. The film hints that Won Ho and his choice to be in the fashion industry is not supported by his father but we never get a concrete answer as to the depth of their discord. I would think that having Lee Kyung Young in the role of Won Ho’s father would add some meat to that backstory but the movie simply doesn’t flesh it out.
Unlike Won Ho’s family, we do get some emotional depth between Ki Myung and his relationship with his mother (Lee Il Hwa). We learn that she knows that Ki Myung is having social difficulties in school but she doesn’t seem to know how bad the bullying is until a student sends her videos. Ki Myung is quite a passive character, so much so that his last stance at the Fashion King finals is a bit unbelievable. I found it quite shocking that I could not imagine his bruised and bloodied face could be well-received in a competition of this nature. Make a statement? Sure. Prove that he’s courageous? Absolutely. But be accepted as a fashionable look? That’s pretty disturbing.
Although the ending is quite unsatisfying, the movie distracts us from its weighty message with an entertaining cast of wacky characters. From Korean fashion personalities such as Hong Suk Chun, Lee Na Young and Model Han Hye Jin to most of the teenagers at Kian High School and their bizarre sense of style. Still, I can’t help but wonder whether the film misses the point when it comes to the relationship between the oppressed and the oppressor.