Hanabusa Tsutomu’s The Handsome Suit may sound a lot like the hit 2006 Korean comedy 200 Pounds Beauty (which was based on a Japanese comic book) or the 2001 Jack Black comedy Shallow Hal.
The hero is Takuro (Muga Tsukaji), a porky-looking chef who can cook up a storm, but has no luck with the ladies. Then one day a raving beauty, Hiroko (Kitagawa Keiko), walks into Takuro’s humble restaurant and applies for a part-time job as a waitress. Takuro tries to clumsily romance her - but has little luck.
Then he stumbles into a suit store - he needs new clothes for a friend’s wedding - and gets an offer he can‘t refuse: a suit that will make him look, from head to toe, like the most handsome man in Japan. With his new face and body, he soon finds a new secret identity as an in-demand fashion model (Tanihara Shosuke) - but he can’t easily forget Hiroko.
Back at the restaurant and in his old fat form, he meets a new part-timer, the rotund Hone (Oshima Miyuki), who may not be a feast for the eyes, but is exactly on his wave length.
Takuro’s dilemma - live a fake, if glamorous, life or follow his heart - is obvious enough, but the film’s excellence lies elsewhere, particularly in the perfectly synchronized performances of comedian Tsukaji Muga as Takuro and actor and TV personality Tanihara Shosuke as his handsome alter ego.
Directing in his first feature, Hanabusa Tsutomu keeps the film from turning into a gimmicky gag-fest by focusing on humanity of his pudgy hero - and how he risk losing it by letting his suit take over his soul. At the same time, he keep the pace lively, the timing impeccably sharp. As a comedy The Handsome Suit has no sags, stains or wrinkles - it’s perfectly tailored for laughs.