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FilmsAsia: Asian film reviews
Soh Yun-Huei
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One League of Social Consciousness
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   My Sassy Girl  



 

My Sassy Girl

Reviewed by Soh Yun-Huei

Director: Kwak Jae-young
Writing credits: Kim Ho-sik, Kwak Jae-young
Starring: Cha Tae-hyun, Jun Ji-hyun
Genre: Romantic comedy
Country: South Korea
Language: Korean
Year released: 2001
Runtime: 137 min
Rating: * * ½ (out of four stars)

My Sassy Girl is one of the many Korean films to be released in Singapore recently, riding on the K-craze that’s hit the nation in recent months. Fortunately, many of these Korean films are actually pretty well done, and provide an alternative to typical Hollywood fare. My Sassy Girl is a romantic comedy with an atypical female protagonist – an empowered, spunky female that is an anomaly in the rather misogynistic culture of Korea. It is a rather entertaining film with several light moments, but like many other Korean films and drama serials, it runs a little too long, and descends into sappy melodrama in the final reels. However, My Sassy Girl is redeemed by its rather clever denouement, and makes for a rather decent date movie.

Gyun-woo (Cha Tak-Hyun) is a single Korean college student, and despite being a decent young man, hasn’t found much luck in love. One night, on his way home on the subway, he chances upon this pretty Girl (who has no name in the show, and is played by Jun Ji-hyun), who also happens to be blind drunk. Girl speaks to Gyun-woo right before she passes out, leading the passengers on the subway to believe that he is her boyfriend. In a quandary, Gyun-woo decides to help the Girl out, and carries her all the way to a motel to let her sober up. Unfortunately, Gyun-woo receives an irate call from Girl, because she thinks that he has taken advantage of her. However, this turns out to be a start of an odd relationship.

Gyun-woo and Girl begin going out on dates, but Girl seems intent on humiliating Gyun-woo at every turn, making him do ridiculous things in public to prove his love for her. She also forcefully coerces Gyun-woo to read her many screenplays, which run the gamut from a violent, Terminator-esque movie treatment, to a traditional martial arts movie. However, it seems that Girl isn’t really looking for a boyfriend, as she is still mourning the loss of her previous lover. Does Girl really like Gyun-woo, or is she just looking for a surrogate boyfriend whilst her heart is on the mend?

Although My Sassy Girl tries to deviate from the traditional trappings of romantic comedies, the truth is that it doesn’t stray that much from the beaten track. Although Girl is certainly different from almost any girl in any Korean film I have watched, the standard rules apply – Meet Cute, romancing, Big Setback, and the requisite Happy Ending. Split into three sections – First Half, Second Half, and Overtime, it is apparent that other than the slight nod to sports, director Gwak Jae-yong was aware that the film’s 137 minute running time was too long. The film bogged itself down with some rather unnecessary melodrama in its last two reels, and the insertion of whole sequences that didn’t segue well (especially one with a soldier that’s gone AWOL) made the pace of the film slacker than it should have been. The slight twist at the end of the movie does reinvigorate My Sassy Girl to a certain extent, but I found myself tapping my fingers impatiently at some points in the show.

As for the actors, Jun Ji-hyun presents a very charismatic Girl that the audience can empathize with, even though her behavior is probably odder than most women in real life. It is a drastic contrast to her role in Il Mare, and her presence manages to light up the screen most of the time. As her foil, however, Cha Taek-hyun is unimpressive, and the chemistry between the duo isn’t particularly strong. Although he is meant to portray an everyman, Taek-hyun’s performance is a little too blah for my liking. However, as the title suggests, the attention should be more on the Sassy Girl, and as a romantic comedy, it is naturally a crowd-pleaser. Do note, however, that the director seems to be oddly fascinated by scenes that involve vomiting, and there is way too much vomiting featured in the film – so, weak stomachs, beware.

Final Word: A romantic comedy that does nothing much wrong, but lasts a little too long for its own good.