Like Big in reverse, Hwang Dong-hyuk’s Miss Granny tells of an elderly woman who one night enters a photo studio called Forever Young for a preemptive funeral portrait and discovers that the mystical photographer isn’t kidding when he says he’ll “make [her] look 50 years younger.”
She’s drawn in by a picture of Audrey Hepburn in the display window and, after happily reminiscing with the owner about Roman Holiday, is shocked and saddened to hear that Ms. Hepburn shuffled off this mortal coil many years ago.
Then she preps for her portrait, some dreamy notes are plucked on a harp, and hijinks ensue, if not always hilarity — Miss Granny doesn’t tweak its well-established formula so much as merely transpose it to a new setting.
This isn’t exactly arbitrary: South Korea’s obsession with cosmetic surgery has been the subject of many a think-piece in recent years, and the film’s anti-ageism subtext is as relevant to the Gangnam District as it is to Rodeo Drive (an instrumental version of “Pretty Woman” even accompanies a shopping spree, if the connection isn’t clear enough).
Hwang mines seemingly every possible cliché and contrivance from this universal anxiety, but little of the joie de vivre implied by its wish-fulfilling narrative.