My Sassy Girl
Crazy chicks are so hot these days
Studio: Shin Cine Communications
Written by: Face
Jae-young Kwak has directed nearly half-a-dozen melodramatic variations over the past six years. From the Japanese inspired My Girl and I (basically A Walk to Remember in Korean) to the genre-blending fantasy-comedy Windstruck, each of his movies tries its best to tug, tug, and tug some more on our receptive heart strings. However, My Sassy Girl is notably different; having been inspired by a fabled fairly-tale originally published on the internet, this film is as much a tale of romance as it is a dissemblance of its core values. After all, since when are sucker punches romantic?
Though the typical Korean romantic-comedy is primarily homogeneous, My Sassy Girl is far from the typical. A perfect example of this is within the structure of the film: the first half of this movie is entirely comedic, while the second half is nothing but long-winded melodrama. The problem, however, is that the two halves are blatantly mismatched. Although My Sassy Girl has achieved widespread international success, it is in no way a representation of its artistic merits. If anything, it's because the two lead roles are so charismatic and fun to watch that the ambiguous undertones are essentially placed on the backburner. I suppose, in a strange way that is commendable.
Everything begins rather abruptly with the two leads on a train late one night. Kyun-woo (Cha Tae-hyun) is an easy-going college student living with his parents. At his age, it's about time he finds the right girl to build his life with - even his aunt and mother are constantly pushing him into blind dates. While on the train home, he notices a very attractive yet extremely intoxicated girl, pointing out through a narrative how even the hottest of women are a turn-off while drunk (I totally agree, by the way). This "girl" is a bizarre mix of attractive features amidst unwarranted and disturbed violent tendencies. After verbally abusing a teenager for not giving an elderly man his seat, she vomits all over that same man's tupee. Before passing out, however, she turns to Kyun-woo and calls him "honey," causing all the passengers to assume he is her boyfriend. Forced into unwanted responsiblity, he innocently takes the mysterious drunken girl to a motel for the night. Thus is the beginning of their wildly unorthodox and insane relationship.
From there, their moonstruck adventures begin, with Kyun-Woo's world slowly unraveling into an unpredictable mayhem as he attempts to make something out of their bizarre situation. This nameless, beautiful girl (played by Ji-hyun Jun) is bossy, anarchic and prone to violent outbursts, which she unleashes on Kyun-woo or any annonymous soul that happens to belittle her proclivity. Whether it be businessmen accosting under-aged girls, or our protagonist unwillingly participating in violent competitions, she is unforgiving and relentless in her vindication. But beneath her coarse exterior lies a damaged and vulnerable spirit, which Kyun-Woo finds irresistable, determined to help heal wounds that he does not even know exist.
Yet, while the emotional baggage of the girl is mildly compelling, it is insufficiently capitalized upon. The result is that Ji-hyun Jun's character comes off as irreverent yet entirely too perplexing. It's as if Jae-young Kwak determined that simply having her lash out without reason was explanation enough. Her violent behavior is masochisticly funny, but at the same time of little to no consequence. I really do not understand her still. I understand where the story goes with her character's development, but when it reaches its peak, it is clear as day that the entire first hour of this film fails to connect with its counterpart.
Thanks to her performance in this film, Ji-hyun Jun won the Grand Bell Best Actress award. I'm not entirely familiar with her competition from back in 2001, but it couldn't have been much of anything all that stellar. However, this movie was a success in terms of its comedic elements; I laughed and laughed until tears came to my eyes. While its two disparate parts may not coincide effectively, the first hour of this film is funny enough to warrant watching; and the two leads are so genuinely charming, I couldn't help but indulge.
Ultimately, this is a romantic-comedy that partially succeeds in spite of itself.
* * * (Average)
Posted: Monday, November 6, 2006