Jung WooSung, Son YeJin
(SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS)
Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful princess in a white castle somewhere in Gangnam. She was so hot your tongue would fall off after seeing her, but for some reason, as the film started, she cried. OH MAMA. One of my friends started with the “Another melodrama? Are you trying to impress the girls?” routine, but wait: there’s more.
Anyway, the beautiful princess (Son “I’m so hot you shouldn’t breathe the same air with me” YeJin) was just stood out by her now-former lover, a married man who couldn’t come to the appointment. Oh! What terrible tragedy. As consolation, the princess bumps into a stranger (Jung “I touched Jeon JiHyun’s booty in that Giordano CF” WooSung) and burps in his face, steals his coke and runs away. Fun, eh?
Now before we go ahead with the story, JWS shoots 25 CFs… oh wait that’s supposed to be smart product placement… I see. You know, SYJ’s daddy in this film is veeeery understanding. He forgives her for loving a married man (that’s like…100% death on most TV Dramas, right?), he’s so forgiving. But somehow, when she falls in love with a carpenter under his supervision, he becomes red and things get all mushy mushy wow wow. So are you telling me this film is not realistic? A rich Korean parent wetting his pants over daddy’s little girl marrying a bum? BINGO. There you have it.
But then again, he sees how the two love each other and agrees to the marriage. Oh boy, their married life is beautiful. A great house in a great looking neighborhood, great neighbors we don’t see (man, there are 20 million people in Seoul, but when film characters move to a new house, they’re always isolated like it’s Tashkent), great sex we don’t see…ahem, I mean, it’s great. And stuff like that.
But it’s a melodrama, so something happens, right? And they both die or one of the two dies, so you cry a lot, phone your best friend that you cried so much it was so cool and she will phone her boyfriend crying that it was so cool and he should see it and he’ll phone his best friend and tell him hey there’s this new movie with the hot chick this is your chance to hit jackpot with the girl you like come and see and on and on and on. BANG… jackpot.
But nobody really dies… I think. Or they do and you don’t see… or am I lying? Watch the movie and you’ll learn.
What’s more important is the message of the film: burp in people’s faces and you’ll find true love. OI!
For those who don’t know Mr. Le Directeur Lee JaeHan, he shot a movie called The Cut Runs Deep towards the end of the 1990s, released in Korea in 2000, dying a quick death at the box office. Shot in English, it’s a decent Scorsese-ish action drama with too many FOP/Asian American cliches to take itself seriously. But to go from that to a serious box office hit, lots of things have to happen:
1) Have to impress some big wig to give you his latest project. And when the stars are Son YeJin and Jung WooSung, you know it’s not gonna be an existential arthouse flick about people eating ramyeon for 15 minutes while you giggle at the camera.
2) Since lots of money is involved, creative freedom is better left at the door, says the producer. Lots of talented directors find it hard to show their POV when they finally get the money to build a decent film.
With that all in mind, it’s impressive that this film doesn’t fall into so many traps of the genre, keeps a solid pace throughout, and shows chemistry (like REAL chemistry, not manufactured WHERRSOKWUUTTOGEDAAAHMANG bs). That it also generates real emotions, thanks to sincerity (or the closest to sincere a film like this can get) and scenes that ring true. I swear the whole room went misty when JWS cried at the table after reading that letter. It’s a great little scene that shows how simple is the best way to go in melodramas.
But what I like about the film is that it doesn’t make an ass out of the ilness it uses as main theme. Too many TV Dramas and movies joked and joke around with big diseases, throw big names around like it’s a plot device, like Cancer, Alzheimer and Parkinson have become Korean Cinema’s new McGuffin. You get to understand the disease not so much to prepare you for tearjerking scenes (which will come anyway, but they at least earn that reaction with sincerity), but to make you understand the pain the patient and everyone around her suffer.
Also, on a technical level the film is very much accomplished. I like the set designs a lot. The rustic house JWS builds, the very dry and emotionless buildings, the cozy atmosphere of the stores and other familiar places.
I always liked Son YeJin for obvious reasons, but felt and still feel that she needs more variety to stand out and become more than a pretty face (like Han EunJung or something. Can she do ANYTHING other than looking hot?). Variety is not always a good thing if you don’t have the range, but if you never start when are you gonna find out about it? Play it safe for your whole career and turn into the next Choi JinShil? Lots of news reports and previews hinted at a change in Son YeJin’s usual stigmatic character. Yes, there’s an air of maturity previously unseen in her previous work, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. She needs to dump at least for a film that “I’m a helpless beautiful damsel in distress, come over here and gimme a hug, sucka” aura if she wants to become a serious actress. Play a total biatch, a sexy seductress, a woman with some strange disease that makes her ugly, or play Rimario in an autobiographical film… I don’t know… DO SOMETHING. Pose nude for example, I wouldn’t complain, would ya?
[pause for “sexist pig” insults]
For mister Jung I have praise, whoooo hooo! I never thought I’d say this, but he’s becoming a pretty good actor. He has that great gift of choosing good films (I mean, Beat, íƒœì–‘ì€ ì—†ë‹¤, ìœ ë ¹, ë˜¥ê°œ… that’s a pretty damn good resume for a CF pretty boy) almost all the time, which helps. He clearly worked hard for this, and even if he still overacts a little every now and then, he’s very convincing.
But the best thing about the film is that it doesn’t overstay its welcome, like too many Korean melodramas do as of late (remember that oh so great finale in Contact? Like predictable but the best way to end?). It was one of those “movie magic” moments when the last shot came and without knowing it would be the end I said, whispering “ì—¬ê¸° ëë„¤ìž, ì œë°œ”… and it did really end there! WHOA. That’s rare. Then someone in the room farted and ruined the mood. I’m going back to watching films alone.
So to sum up things for those who didn’t care to read the above (bastardz)
Son YeJin. She’s hot. Even if she couldn’t read a single line and had a voice like OkDongJa I’d probably like her. Well, maybe.
Jung WooSung. He’s hot. Even if he couldn’t read a single line and had a voice like Park KyungRim you’d probably like him. RIGHT? Well, as a man, he’s not too bad. I admit it. I’ll start looking forward to his movies now.
The director. I liked the pacing and attention to detail here. It does have pretty unusual salad dressing for a melodrama, even if the fundamentals are more or less the same. But the sole fact he’s able to keep it simple when you don’t need long violin riffs to jerk the tears off you is commendable. Bravo.
Soundtrack. Pretty cool stuff. Not the best, but it shows they didn’t just get whatever the production company handed them.
Cha SeungJae and Sidus. Now that MyungFilm has merged with the devil (hehehe…just kidding) they’re the classiest production company in Korea. Their movies hardly ever fail, and in the rare occasion they do they’re at least interesting. Read a list of what they’ve done in the last 5 years, literally some of the best films in Korean Cinema of the last decade.
The Doctor and The Master. The only reason they’re there is to change their character to jerk a tear or two. I doubt this was Director Lee’s doing and sounds more like spin/doctoring.
Even in a film like this, do we need the usual “social strata” boolsheet of rich families passing out when they see their ìžì‹ë“¤ trying to “clim down the ladder?” I know it does really happen (often, but not ALL THE TIME FER GODS SAKE), but it just degrades the image of Korean parenting to foreign viewers.
I wish Korean Cinema, or better, certain selected Korean producers would start paying attention to the OBVIOUS product placement overkill that’s happening right now in contemporary Cinema. It’s okay to pay the bills and show a logo here and there, but to dedicate an ENTIRE, USELESS shot to show a Coca-Cola is a little too insulting for this liberal nuthead here. Thanky thanky.
That “I burp you love me” simphony. EH. You know some dumbass critic in the West is gonna keep thinking one of the leading aspects of our Cinema is scatological gags and the like.
8 stolen Coke cans out of 10
*edited by Aziraphale