Based on the novel by author Kim Min-Seo, Little Black Dress depicts the trails and tribulations of four young women as they experience life as post-graduate students. Yoo-Min still doesn’t know what she wants to do in life but somehow gets a job as an assistant to a top writer. Hye-Ji is busy playing around and living the life of a socialite when one day is scouted by a talent agency. She then becomes the face for a high profile ad campaign and rises to stardom. Soo-Jin holds the most jealousy over Hye-Ji’s sudden fame, because she has tried unsuccessfully to become an actress. Compounding her problems, her father’s business has just gone bankrupt. With Min-Hee wanting to study abroad, her poor English skills are the only thing holding her back. As the four young women attempt to experience their newly discovered freedom, they must also face the hopes and failures of entering adulthood.
With a synopsis such as the one described above, Little Black Dress would appear to be a film that realistically depicts some of the various problems that contemporary post-graduates often face. Initially portraying the independence that one must undergo given their newfound status as “adults”, the film addresses issues such as searching for a substantial career, dating and even finding time to hang out with one’s friends. These are all elements that produce a film that is seemingly honest in its portrayal of these four modern women, but it sadly misses an element that should make us as viewers truly care for their outcome, with that element being likeability. Considering the premise of Little Black Dress in which we are led to believe that we can relate to these characters and their hardships in some fashion, the film doesn’t allow us to empathize much with their plight considering just how impudent they all are as individuals. Whether its Yoo-Min’s discontent with helping out a fellow colleague who only wants her advice in becoming a better writer—with Yoo-Min staunchly making fun of her—to the likes of egotistical Hye-Ji, who announces her absurd reasoning behind not working as giving others the opportunity to work, the rather condescending nature of the film’s characters severely diminishes the emotional impact of the film.
It’s certainly surprising to see this approach considering that director Heo In-Moo has directed such pictures as Herb (2006) and Love So Divine (2004), both films that at least make a genuine attempt to sympathize their characters with that of the audience. Here he directs the film seemingly complacent with inserting scenes of forced melodrama to appease and persuade viewers to feel for these characters, but by implementing these scenes heavily towards the end of the film, it’s already quite too late to salvage any sincere emotional response from the viewer. Sure, one may find one of the four characters relatable in some way, but they are never portrayed as individuals with much depth nor rectitude. The actions that are taken by the characters within the film may appear as truthful representations of some individuals—and sadly to say, they most likely are—but the film awkwardly addresses so many issues, ranging from pregnancy, financial woes and even death, that it simply becomes too convoluted for its own good. In a rather warped attempt to be humorous, the film also weakens the seriousness of these issues through rather highly impractical but comical means that just seem too far detached from reality. Considering that the film is attempting to formulate some authenticity in its approach, this doesn’t help much in actually giving us a substantial look into their predicaments.
Mostly stemming from an inadequate script and pacing complications, Little Black Dress is a film that is unconvincing in its portrayal of its modern characters. Given that the film is making an effort to address real life issues, more emphasis should have been placed upon creating characters that we as an audience can sympathize with given their current situations. There are numerous moments within the film where our empathy towards these characters are tossed aside as we see just how unlikeable they are as people, never truly exonerating them from their disdainful behavior. As such, Little Black Dress is a film that attempts to have us understand the plight of these characters, but like the overall film itself, it just seems too superficial, unbelievable and dismissive to be taken as a critical look into contemporary issues faced by South Korea’s young adults.