My Sassy Girl 엽기적인 그녀 (2001) – S. Korea
It’s an extravagant, exaggerated romantic comedy, funny and sweet then dramatic, ripe for your dabbing tears with generic brand tissues. Though it doesn’t flow as neatly as you might hope, some of the arcs lingering for longer than necessary, the transitions through brief, gorgeously collected snippets of time during well edited years for its lively characters in a thoughtful variety of sets make for an exceptionally entertaining experience. You’ll laugh out loud; it’s that hilarious and heart warming.
Time Under a Tree
When slacker student Gyeon-woo stumbles upon a drunken, attractive girl on the subway, her fumbling about and picking fights, he makes it his mission to get her home safely. But a more personable introduction takes place afterward, to force him a second guess of this first encounter, seemingly accidental, much confusion and some vomiting a result too. Because, supposedly, it’s not common for a man to tote a beautiful young woman, however drunk, across town by back, he’s thrown in jail with gangsters and goons when he tries to house her, (caught naked–you’ll just have to watch) and, despite those troubles, he remains infatuated, giddy like you get the point. She doesn’t apologize either; she’s a bit stubborn, you could say, all the more reason he wants her. Gyeon-woo is exponentially obsessing over her, and so you’ll follow him, his comical pursuits clumsy and extraordinarily affectionate, all for a leading lady given no name at all (so that that narrative is like an anecdote; shorter and sweeter). To quote an elderly woman I once overheard, coincidentally on a bus as was Gyeon, “it’s a hoot and a half [this plot].”
Directed by Jae-young Kwak, My Sassy Girl, which in Korean translation (thanks to my having checked Wikipedia) means ‘That Bizarre Woman,’ this piece is unusual, not quite of the type that typically I enjoy. I did though, really, and I confidently assume you will too. It has an identity and charisma uncommon in other similar copied comedies, some trying to be an updated Notting Hill or Sleepless in Seattle, well intentioned but handicapped from bigger budgets and a lack thereof heart. For a more than okay array of cinematographic sequences and its attention to sentimental/comical pausing, gapped, details it’s a gem, a little gift of a filmic discovery, like Gyeon-woo’s time capsule, under a tree for your dusting off and enjoying.
Notice the span of time consumed of this piece’s editing, it running much slower and more evenly paced than most, to see this point, of it standing apart of its other rom/com brethren, come to life. You’ll soon discover too how over the top and stupendous the events unfold, thickly glazed ridiculousness, recess playing turned to eleven, but the magic– and it is magic –of this two hours of comical, romatical narrative is manifest by performers willing to make a spectacle with feet and hands up in the air, body humor done as tasteful art, like eye rolls that warn you a character really means business, upset but funny. Best to back off when she does, friend.
Actor Tae-hyun Cha plays Gyeon-woo, his facial reactions your soon comedy currency to bill and fold, but the best feat to observe, to remember and perhaps playback, is actress Gianna Jun’s sly character development, building upward, into the mind and behaviors of her girlish no-name leading girl, the hero’s prize. She’s brash and short tempered, sensitive, and also aggressive. When around men especially does she really pique up her edge of spontaneity and boldness, ready to react toward argumentative stimuli. When Gyeon-woo tries to show her how affectionate he has become, of her odd mood swings and obsessive tendencies to control choices, she creates obstacles for him to endure, like meeting her parents. It seems he cannot make decisions then for himself, from choosing a beverage to consume at cafes to picking shoes for wearing during afternoon park strolls, but he doesn’t seem to mind. She’s very different, and, for you and I, those cinephiles that usually despise this variety of film, the genre of which the likes of Hugh Grant personalities and Meg Ryan molds have abashed for decades, that matters that him and her contrast, spar so complementarity. Their relationship is attractive to watch, bubbly and charming, truly.
Design aspects are unique too, as with one scene, maybe two, in particular, in which she presents her projects, some meticulously crafted, though basely mediocre, screenplays of action/adventure flicks to him. As he reads, whether he likes them or not, you’ll see the scenes from her pages transform the locales around the two, becoming matrix-esque sequences of acrobatical bullet dodging, explosions, sharpshooters’ rampages, and rupturing blood squibs. Delightful.
You’ll soon not forget the style in those moments, as they are crafted to display the wideness of imagining beautiful things in daydreams and storytelling, like over coffee tales shared with someone important and personable. What the two characters experience is upscaled both to magnify their compatibility and to share insights and inspirations of past filmmakers who’ve done good too.
And, even if it’s not a shoveled unit with layers of glitzy, dark cinematography that I often look for, it’s an important film. Because it’s won awards and has been marked one of South Korea’s most popular and monetarily successful features, you should notice not only its narrative elements but the social ones that continue to follow and form an entirely different movement that’s recently come of Asia, again trying hands at conformity. A seemingly contradictory genre, the romantic comedy, My Sassy Girl, if you’ve not yet seen it, is like having coffee rather than cola in a cafe, not necessarily new, but oddly refreshing like no other regular cup.