Gender-Bent Korean Comedy ‘The Beauty Inside’ Doesn’t Bend Its Genders Far Enough


Love isn’t exactly blind in The Beauty Inside, a romantic drama adapted from a “social film” produced a few years ago by Toshiba and Intel.

Baek Jong-yeol’s take on the high-concept material — a man wakes up in a different body every day, much to his chagrin and that of the woman who loves him in all his many forms — is more edifying than its worrying origins suggest, if only slightly. An old man one day, Woo-jin may well be a middle-aged woman the next. Worse than the latent silliness of such a premise is how little the filmmakers ultimately do with the world of narrative possibilities it presents; in attempting to show the universality of love, The Beauty Inside succeeds in showing the opposite.

Woo-jin maintains his straight-male perspective no matter who he becomes, and nearly every iteration happens to be a twenty- or thirtysomething Korean, and every one who factors into a pivotal scene is also good-looking. (Were this a feature-length American film, every “important” version of the protagonist would most likely be a traditionally handsome white dude.) Nothing ever truly challenges either main character’s conception of love in general and the person they love in particular; if anything, these unique circumstances serve only to reinforce Woo-jin’s assumptions.

All of which reads less as a deliberate attempt at being exclusionary and more as a reflection of how narrow the lens most of us view such matters through tends to be, even (and perhaps especially) when trying to take the long view of it all.

The Beauty Inside

Directed by Baek Jong-yeol

Well Go USA

Opens September 11, AMC Empire 25