It is a world where sexism is still – unfortunately – prevalent in social, business, employment and relationship situations, so a fantasy tutorial in How to Use Guys with Secret Tips could provide some potential solutions. Or it could just be a fun social comedy that pokes fun at the media using relevant (and now no longer relevant – but that is part of the comedy) media. So girls, the answer to your career and relationship woes can be found if you would simply follow the rules and exercises shown in How to Use Guys with Secret Tips. Perhaps.
Choi Bona is full of ideas, skills and abilities but her job as an assistant director of commercials seems occasionally overwhelming because of the inherent sexism that perpetrates the media, and indeed society as a whole. After a particularly traumatic shoot at a beach she chances upon a seller of a variety of admittedly dubious looking self-help tomes on a wagon shop. She does however fall for what may, or may not, be a ploy and purchases a series of products to aid her situation…at a cost, of course. Having spent a fairly large sum of money she has a box of volumes of ‘How to Use Guys with Secret Tips’, an ancient collection of videos which need to be played on a VHS player. The series is introduced by a central figure who claims to know these secrets and can reveal them to Bona so that she can learn how to progress her career, as well as be in control and on top of the situation. Sexism abounds and guys are inherently the problem, particularly in her industry, be they in the shape of her boss, the facile and annoying director of the productions she is involved with producing or, of course, the leading actors, however socially hip and handsomely hunky they may or may not be, such as heart throb Lee Seung-jae (Jeong-se Oh). So despite the seemingly bizarre suggestions her guide has to offer, the results prove to be anything but meh – and her career takes off, companionships seem a distinct possibility and even Lee Seung-jae provides a welcome friendship. But can such an ancient sage (he is on VHS after all, not even old broadcast quality Betamax) prove worthwhile for her future or will it all come tumbling down? Will she need to rewind more than the tapes?
A bunch of fun and quite a lot of silliness, How to Use Guys with Secret Tips takes a disgruntled central female character and makes for prime concept comedy that succeeds as the pure entertainment it sets out to be. Yes, some of the gags are familiar and pre-empted (a repeat of the dogs copulating against legs is among these) but they are generally amusing and played by a cast who are clearly enjoying themselves. The design of the film also accentuates the background of the premise and the characters’ occupations – the day-glo world of advertising sets, coupled with paparazzi camera shoots at actors’ press junkets which contrast with the cheesy world portrayed on the set of How to Use Guys with Secret Tips videos which are full of wooden acting from extras in fake scenarios (very 1980’s self-help) and narrated by the adviser himself, who amusingly also appears in front of scenes in the film to keep us, the audience, entranced by the whole (daft!) learning experience. There are, of course, genuine issues in the film, genuine drama, genuine concerns and genuine characterisation, but really these are just part of the big comic mash-up. The issues are undoubtedly serious, but the film is very much played for laughs.
The ‘old meets new’ premise recalls such films as Pleasantville (1998) and here is a more direct VHS connection to Be Kind Rewind (2008). How To Use Guys With Secret Tips was released in the cinemas and is now available on digital formats like fancy DVD. There is no VHS version on sale, a shame in this return to the love of all things analogue. Or is it?