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Rules of Dating
 


Kang Hye-Jung and Park Hae-Il in Rules of Dating
 
Year: 2005  
Director: Han Jae-Rim  
  Cast: Kang Hye-Jung, Park Hae-Il
  The Skinny: Despite possibly misleading its audience with its advertisements and ironic title, Rules of Dating is an impressive debut film that's not afraid to ask tough questions while being entertaining.
Review
by
Kevin Ma:

     The posters for Rules Of Dating include the two protagonists smiling in an oh-so-sly way that might suggest this to be a relaxing romantic comedy. However, the film is really the opposite. In fact, it poses quite a complicated question: should love and sex be the same thing? While some think that they should go hand in hand, it seems that the characters in Rules Of Dating see these things as apples and oranges. The result is a sexy, mature, and unconventional romance that may be too challenging for some. However, itís nevertheless an intriguing ride.
     Rules Of Dating (or known in the subtitles as To Do Or Not To Do) stars Kang Hye Jung (Old Boy) and Park Hae Il (Memories of Murder) as high school student teacher Choi Hung and her counselor Yu Lim. When the two first meet, Yu Lim initiates a frank sexual conversation. Yu Lim is Choi Hung's junior by one year, and takes a liking to her immediately, despite being attached to a longtime girlfriend (who at one point he claims is ďmore like a sisterĒ). Meanwhile, Choi Hung is a career woman attached to a rich doctor boyfriend whoís never there. Yu Lim decides to pursue Choi Hung, not using pure charm, but through a variety of questionable means, including his power of authority (he forces her to socialize with the other teachers outside of class), endless sexual banter, and even nearly raping her in a mutual moment of weakness. While Yu Lim probably would have been sued for sexual harassment a long time ago if he was in America, something keeps Choi Hung from blowing the whistle on him. Is it school politics? Is it a deep, dark secret from long ago? Or is she actually starting to like him?
     All three of these possibilities play out in Rules Of Dating, but the film certainly doesnít gloss over them - nor does it provide definitive answer to those questions. One of the best decisions director/co-screenwriter Han Jae Rim makes is to not create charming and likable characters. Instead, the two protagonists are mean, conniving, weak, and at times, just plain frustrating people. However, the performances of Kang and Park are so natural that you canít help but relate to these characters. This is especially true for Yu Lim, who easily qualifies as one of the most unlikable protagonists in a Korean romance ever. However, because of Parkís performance, Yu Lim remains a character the audience can somehow be sympathetic to.
     Itís strange how such an unlikable leading man can carry Rules Of Dating, and the answer is in the intelligent screenplay. While it takes a little time to get going and is slightly overlong for a romantic comedy, the script balances questions about the meaning of relationships, gender politics, and even office politics without being meandering and preachy. Rules Of Dating is sometimes an uncomfortable film to watch and the destination is not always satisfying, but it certainly is a lot more entertaining and unpredictable than other Korean romantic comedies.
     In addition, much credit should be given to first-time director Han, who employs a handheld style that can be off-putting, but effectively places the audience in the perspective of voyeurs. Han doesnít possess any special visual flair that many new directors do, but in using a quiet style, he refuses to judge his characters and still manages to keep the film from becoming emotionally distant. This is a brave decision for a first-time filmmaker, who could have done things the safe way, but succeeded mostly by taking the other road instead.
     Despite a prime summer release date and a large expectations to perform at the box office, Rules of Dating only achieved modest success, presumably because of its mature subject matter. However, Han Jae Rim, aided by two commanding and brilliant performances, has masterfully crafted a complex romance that manages to be thoughtful, entertaining, and even frustrating. Even though this isnít the type of film to appeal to a worldwide audience, any film that can stir up so many emotions is always a film worth watching. (Kevin Ma 2005)

Availability: DVD (Korea)
Region 3 NTSC
CJ Entertainment
2-Disc Set
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Korean subtitles
Various extras
 

   
 
 
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