Kasane is a young, talented woman prevented from pursuing the “family business” – she, like her mother, is a fabulous actress, but she’s held back by a prominent scar on her face. But when her mother dies, she leaves Kasane a magical tube of lipstick – one that, when conveyed through a kiss, allows her to swap faces with the kiss recipient for 12 hours. So you can bet your Mac and Sephora that Kasane finds herself an attractive but middling actress named Nina and literally kisses her face off.
I had some problems with this movie, namely, the blatantly sexist stuff. Like, there’s no reason that this magic has to be transmitted via kiss except the director clearly likes to linger over whatever lesbian\girl-on-girl situations he’s orchestrated.
I think the premise has potential, but right off the bat I bet you can recognize some challenges and when the script runs into them, it’s like running into a brick wall. I wish some script writer would have made even a half-assed attempt at circumventing the obvious pitfalls, but no, Kasane runs into them face first, and the camera caresses her smudged lipstick. I mean, you can understand what Kasane (Kyoko Yoshine) gets out of the equation – but Nina (Tao Tsuchiya)? What can she possible stand to benefit?
And, okay, let’s address the scar – a significant one covering half her face. I won’t pretend it’s easy to be so marked, but I can’t forgive this movie for constantly reinforcing that scar = ugly. In fact, the older I get, the less I see ugliness, period. And I can’t really fathom why we’d ever need to use that word. But this girl, though clearly paranoid about her scarring, is not ugly. But if you’ll allow me for just one moment to pull back the curtain a little, let’s say for the sake of argument that she is ugly. Isn’t the lipstick a little cruel? Wouldn’t things have worked out better if it was a magical tube of cover up? A nice thick foundation with a side of pancake pressed powder? Julia Roberts has at least four tattoos that we know about, but have you ever seen them? No. Because makeup. Makeup IS magic. I have a tube of Christian Louboutin red lip stick that cost a car payment, but it’s worth it because it makes me feel like TWO car payments. But you know what? Makeup is fun because colour is necessary but changing yourself is not. Scars are just a reminder that you survived. And it feels awful to be complicit in this movie’s messaging, because scars don’t make you ugly, but being shallow and superficial does. Which is not to say it would be easy for a young woman to confront our looks-obsessed world with a scar that looks so angry and cruel, but there has to be some middle ground between total isolation and stealing someone’s face.
This movie claims to challenge our notions of beauty and superficiality but I felt it did the opposite. It’s adapted from a popular manga but I’m unfamiliar with its source material and I wonder if I would feel differently if I knew it. For me, parts of this movie felt uncomfortably fetishistic, and though I tried to take it light-heartedly, and just enjoy the twisted nature of the film, I couldn’t quite buy into it, nor did I want to.