Have you ever wished a drama production team would make your life perfect—choosing your outfit, compiling a soundtrack, manufacturing reasons for you to spend time with your crush, and even giving you the perfect script for the occasion?
Well, some of the lucky characters in the 2010 Korean movie “The Cyrano Agency” have almost exactly that.
Soon to be the basis for the fourth installment in tvN’s Oh Boy series of dramas, following this spring’s well-received “Flower Boy Next Door,” this lighthearted romantic comedy revolves around a failed theater troupe that finds a way to put their dramatic skills to good use: making people fall in love. (For a price, of course.) With superspy techniques verging on the James Bondian, this scrappy band of former thespians spends their time concocting scenarios guaranteed to bring people together.
In spite of its inherent cynicism—to the agents, inspiring love is a straightforward math problem easily solved in the most predictable, mundane (and cheesy) of ways—”The Cyrano Agency” is a bright and funny take on finding love in the modern world.
Mixing a heist-film mentality and classic romantic hijinks, the movie opens with a bang: the team organizes a series of primetime calibre meet-cutes for a sad sack customer intent on dating his favorite barista. Told in a clever montage that cuts between planning sessions and real-life events, it shows the dating agents—and the movie—at their finest.
Everything goes well for the crew until life begins to imitate art. In one fateful case, Byung Hoon, the agency’s director, finds himself helping another man win the heart of the woman he loves—exactly what happened in “Cyrano De Bergerac,“ the nineteenth-century play that inspired their business. (Never fear if you know the tragic source material; this isn’t that kind of Korean movie.)
Played with slouching charm by Uhm Tae Woong, Byung Hoon does everything in his power to stay off the case, but money is scare and the rest of the team eventually convince him to move forward. His shared past with the agency’s newest prey is told in fragmentary flashbacks that gradually reveal the details of their love, from a gum-driven meeting to a teary breakup. As he choreographs the client’s quest for her hand, Byung Hoon is forced to decide between a broken past and an uncertain future not only for himself, but also for his former sweetheart.
Standout among the movie’s cast is Daniel Choi, as the star of Byung Hoon’s greatest scheme. His easy-going energy is perfectly showcased here, thanks to a script that gives plenty of opportunities for both physical comedy and puppyish sweetness. In an underused role, Park Shin Hye also shines as a no-nonsense businesswoman working to keep the agency afloat.
Funny fight scenes and quirky romance abound in “The Cyrano Agency,” but the movie does suffer from a slower second half and some serious logical flaws. The biggest of them all, of course, is at the very heart of the agency’s work: Why would you ever want someone who would only want a “perfect” version of you, not the real thing?
“The Cyrano Agency” seems tailor-made for the Oh Boy franchise. The movie was based on a Korean-language webtoon, so lots of source material is available to borrow from. Focusing on an ensemble cast of agents and clients, its set-up gives the drama’s writers lots of fodder for varied plots and characters. (If anything, the two-hour movie suffers from having too many great toys and not enough time to play with them, a problem that will presumably be remedied in a 16-episode version of the story.) Also, the film’s playful editing and design seem full of potential inspiration for the drama, including the agency’s office, which is located in a crumbling, abandoned theater that’s just crying out for a stylish Oh Boy makeover.
The upcoming drama is slated to be a prequel to the film, so it will presumably show how the agency came to be. The Oh Boy series has improved with each passing show, from the broad comedy of “Flower Boy Ramyun Shop” to the surprisingly moving character studies of “Flower Boy Next Door.” If these earlier dramas are any indication, “Dating Agency: Cyrano” will be the must-watch romantic comedy of the season when it begins its run later this month.
For more drama commentary and reviews, visit Outside Seoul.