has spent a long time building up her luxurious image. Since her debut in the early 1990s, she has been identified as a beautiful actress with a radiant smile and a classy posture. No wonder she recently won a lucrative advertising contract for an upscale apartment complex advertisement.
Ko is now betting that she can overhaul her image, at least on the silver screen anyway. In "Eonniga ganda (Project Makeover)" ("Go Go Sister
"), directed by Kim Chang-rae
, she plays an average Korean girl in her 30s who wants to redesign her complicated life.
The challenge: Ko is far from an average woman by any account. Her overall image does not have any "average" quality. But the character she plays in the film is, well, average.
Na Jeong-ju, played by Ko, is an assistant designer who believes her first love destroyed her entire life. Back in 1994 - at the tender age of 18 - Jeong-ju fell in love with Cho Ha-nui (Kim Jung-min
), a high school kid who wanted to become a top singer.
But the relationship did not last long. The self-conscious boy jilted her shortly after their secret trip to the northeastern city of Chuncheon. The implication is that he slept with her once and that was the only thing he wanted. After all, he is a handsome singer-wannabe and there were plenty of other girls waiting in the high-school romance wings.
For some mysterious reason, Jeong-ju is given a chance to fix her problem once and for all: getting back to the year 1994 where she can intervene in her fate and sever ties with the playboy before matters go awry.
As the main character is attempting a drastic makeover, actress Ko is also jumping into a complete image makeover. She tries (or pretends) to shed her luxurious image and embrace a comical role as a desperate thirtysomething.
The movie itself is not overly sentimental. Nor is it an exact copy of "Back to the Future" or "Peggy Sue Got Married". Director Kim manages to pull off much-needed balance and restraint while offering a set of items that bring back memories of the early 1990s - pagers, Guess jeans, then popular Korean singers and their hit songs.
The question is why Ko wants to have a makeover as a film actress. A plausible reason is that she is still recovering from the commercial failure in her role in "A.P.T"
earlier this year.
The horror thriller, adapted from a popular online comic series, tanked at the box office with just 800,000 tickets sold across the nation leaving critics unimpressed. In fact, Ko's appearance in "A.P.T"
came after a four-year hiatus from the film industry, so there were plenty of positive expectations for her performance. As the negative box office numbers and reviews came in, the sense of industry disappointment was equally intense.
Speculation about Ko's first-ever stab at a comic role is that she wants to turn her typically static image into a dynamic, potentially versatile one through "Project Makeover", a fitting title and theme for the 35-year-old actress.
The film, however, is unlikely to provide a real makeover for Ko because her inherently elegant image does not fit in with the mundane, almost slapstick role.
While Ko is highly popular as a television commercial model, her score on the big screen is not so spectacular. She did not get high marks for her role in various films including "Double Agent
" (2003), and the only bright spot is "A Day", directed by Han Ji-seung
Ko won the Golden Bell Best Actress Award for this film, which proved her value as a serious movie actress. But even the award was not a timely recognition given that Ko debuted in 1992 and solidified her image as an icon of the 1990s.
"Project Makeover", to be released nationwide on Jan. 4, explores a woman's desire to get a revolutionary makeover in her wretched life. As with the film's desperate character, Ko is battling to get a makeover in her acting career. But the task for both the fictional character and real-life Ko seems daunting. After all, a makeover rarely, if ever, happens when the current image is just fine.
By Yang Sung-jin