In 2001, Jeong Jae-eun's "Take Care of My Cat" came to be and with it was a touching coming of age story of five 20-something girlfriends. The film became critically acclaimed both locally and abroad, siting its ability to capture the complex dynamics at play between characters as its strong point. "My Black Mini Dress", directed by Heo In-moo, attempts to reinvent that winning formula.
Similar to "Take Care of My Cat", Heo In-moo's tale names itself with a common thread that links the group of four girls. Although the "Black Mini Dress" leitmotif is not as predominate in Heo's rendition, it still acts as a symbol of sisterhood and commonality between the girls. Titles aside, each film is a melodramatic account of young girls' friendship and the conflict that emerges as life runs its course. These fresh high school graduates are facing the world together but with that challenge comes a balancing act between what they once knew of the world and what they are now experiencing.
In "My Black Mini Dress", however, the girls are rich and live rather lavishly. This is the first distinction to be made between "Take Care of My Cat" and "My Black Mini Dress" and although the superficiality of it all may be too much for some, it does attempt to not let the girls' socio-economic status overwhelm events. Whether or not it was successful in this regard is debatable. Plastic surgery, shopping, boys, image, success, indulgence, it's all there and I found it near impossible to delve deeper than the consumer crust Heo In-moo's presented.
As you might imagine stereotypes often emerge when such strong themes of consumer culture are present. The girls definitely have there own identity but it is the world around them that has been pummelled into two dimensions. From egotistical and prancing female bosses, to the endless chauvinistic men that occupy the screen, "My Black Mini Dress" is a constant play on themes and clichés that have long lost whatever sense of freshness they might have once had.
The narrative itself, as well as some visual motifs, was too strongly linked to Jeong Jae-eun's 2001 tale and the film became frustrating and unpalatable because of it. Anyone who has seen "Take Care of My Cat" will easily recognise the many similarities between the films and will not be happy with the results. It is not that the girls' story wasn't touching or relatable but, when primed with what felt like the superior original, "My Black Mini Dress" felt like nothing more than a jewelled copy and paste effort. Lack of originality comes to mind here as the film's execution and recycled presentation failed whatever vision Heo In-moo might have had in creating an upmarket version of Jeong Jae-eun's modern tale of sisterhood.
-C.J. Wheeler (Chriscjw@gmail.com)
Available on DVD from YESASIA
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