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The Royal Tailor - Movie Poster
Original Title:

South Korea 2014

Period, Drama, Comedy

Lee Won-seok

Han Suk-kyu
Ko Soo
Park Shin-hye
Yoo Yeon-seok
Ma Dong-seok
Shin So-yul
Lee Yoo-bi
Jo Dal-hwan
Bae Seong-woo

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The Royal Tailor

Story: Jo Dol-seok (Han Suk-kyu) is the king's tailor and because of his exceptional services he is soon to be ennobled. The country's new king (Yoo Yeon-seok) has dismissed all former ministers, only Jo was allowed to stay. A great honor, but Jo believes his future to be threatened by unusually talented tailor Lee Kong-jin (Ko Soo). Kong-jin is ordered by the queen (Park Shin-hye) to repair the king's robe after Jo declined to take on the job since it would be impossible to achieve in the short amount of time until the ceremony. Kong-jin even improves the robe in some aspects, though. From that day on Kong-jin's fashion style, which doesn't care about royal decorum, doesn't just enjoy great popularity outside of the palace walls anymore. However, the tailor has fallen in love with the queen, who being the wife of the former king is desperately trying to spark the current ruler's interest. In order to achieve this she constantly orders Kong-jin to make new, breathtaking dresses and even the king becomes aware of the new tailor. Dol-seok can't keep up with Kong-jin's talent, but the new tailor also treads on thin ice with his bold dresses since his fashion style also has some indirect political influence.

Review: You seldomly get to see a costume drama that in fact makes costumes one of the story's centerpieces. Well, at least to a certain degree. Actually, the well-known story around a genius and jealousy is the prevailing theme which you should be familiar with from the award-winning 80s work "Amadeus". Still, this doesn't change the fact that "The Royal Tailor" looks simply gorgeous and really manages to enchant with its colors (and of course costumes). Particularly outstanding are the energy and the many comedic scenes at the beginning which are responsible for us to be instantly captured by the events. The movie is generally convincing, although it struggles with a strong shift in tone in the middle and an excessive running time. Problems that are all too common when it comes to modern Korean films.

The Royal Tailor - Film Screenshot 11

The many funny ideas and the charm the movie spreads by making fun of conservative, aristocratic attire, e.g. the sleeves always about to land in the food on the table or the hat colliding with that of your neighbor, set the stage for some nice laughs. Of course, Kong-jin serves as the individual we are to relate to, a free spirit who is constantly violating the royal court's rules, especially with his fashion sense. Ko Soo ("Way Back Home", "Love 911") has our sympathy right away, but even though his acting achievements leave nothing to be desired, it becomes obvious pretty soon who sets the tone especially in the more serious and dramatic moments of the film and thus clearly carries the movie on his shoulders most of the time.

The Royal Tailor - Film Screenshot 12

Of course we are talking about Han Suk-kyu ("The Berlin File", "Villain and Widow"). His character also turns out to be the most multi-layered and oftentimes you start to wonder about the sort of decisions Jo Dol-seok makes. But Han still gives the royal tailor a coherent personality in the end. Naturally, Jo's jealousy of Kong-jin's genius stands clearly in the centre of events at all times, but there are also those moments in which he marvels at the tailor's talent and he even spends moments with Kong-jin in which the two look like colleagues at work who complement each other perfectly. But this main plot is woven around a mandatory palace intrigue plot as it recently could be seen in "The Fatal Encounter", too. With the difference that this time dresses are used as political means.

A woman's influence at royal court rises with her beauty and beauty on the other hand can be enhanced by pretty dresses. So clothes are the link between the different plot pieces and this in a very well done and everything but obtrusive manner. Park Shin-hye ("Cyrano Agency") is convincing as the queen, even though her character seems a bit half-baked. However, Yoo Yeon-seok ("A Werewolf Boy") as the king seems rather odd. Sometimes, he seems to be going beyond his capacity, but this is mainly because the king's ambiguity is hard to grasp and the screenplay delivers too little in this respect. This begs the question if the royal tailor would have been as implaubsible or at least alienating if it weren't for Han Suk-kyu. The complex ties and characters that are apparently standing in the spotlight aren't woven subtly enough in the end.

The Royal Tailor - Film Screenshot 13

A big problem is that from the movie's middle part onwards the comedic content decreases rapidly until there isn't any of it to be found at the end anymore. Nonetheless, you can easily call the drama well achieved. The ending is undoubtfully moving and the director knows how to make use of the film's strengths. The problem is the transition from comedy to drama. A lot of things drag on too much as well and with its 127 minutes the movie simply ended up being too long. Maybe a little bit of cutting wouldn't only have been a good idea with the dresses. But technically "The Royal Tailor" is fantastically shot. The gaudy colors, the wonderful sets, there is nothing to criticize here. Director Lee Won-seok ("How to Use Guys With Secret Tips") has composed his scenes very diligently. Accordingly, the aforementioned weak points carry not that much consequences as in maybe similar works. Thus, we get a well achieved costume drama.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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