A happier moment from Sad Movie.
Jung Woo-Sung, Im Su-Jung, Cha Tae-Hyun, Yeom Jung-Ah,
Shin Min-Ah, Son Tae-Yung, Lee Ki-Woo
Talk about truth in advertisement. This mostly entertaining,
star-packed film lives up to its title, although not
necessarily in the way one might expect. Rather than
deliver a straightforward melodrama, director Kwon Jong-Gwan
instead delivers a genuinely funny romantic comedy,
only to pull the rug out from under the audience in
a brutally depressing final act. Sure, it bucks convention,
but to what purpose?
a film in which likeable characters encounter life-altering
problems, struggle to overcome them, and then seem to
actually make some headway, only to have all their hopes
eventually dashed in a swift and brutal fashion. If
you can do that, you'll have some inkling of what Sad
Movie is all about. Director Kwon Jong-Gwon (S
Diary) assembled a star-studded cast for this ensemble
piece that more than lives up to its melancholic title.
Despite being upfront about its content, Sad Movie
isn't a melodrama in the conventional sense. In fact,
the majority of the film plays out as a cute, consistently
funny romantic comedy, a fact that only amplifies the
sense of betrayal and/or shock many viewers will feel
by story's end.
Rather than focus on one
driving plotline, the film is a collection of four stories
that all intersect at some point, although they remain
basically unrelated. First off, there's Jin-Woo (Jung
Woo-Sung of A Moment to Remember), a handsome,
noble, but lunkheaded firefighter dating a sign language
interpreter named Su-Jung (Im Su-Jung of A Tale of
Two Sisters). It looks like the two are ready to
take the next big step in their relationship, but Jin-Woo's
unwillingness to give up his dangerous profession and
his occasional obliviousness to Su-Jung's needs keeps
derailing any plans for wedding bells between the two.
Su-Jung lives with her
sister, the cheerful Su-Eun (Shin Min-Ah of A Bittersweet
Life). Although she provides the occasional moral
support for her sister and "brother-in-law,"
Su-Eun has problems of her own. While working at a theme
park as a Raggedy Ann-like Snow White, she falls in
love with a portrait painter named Sang-Gyu (Lee Ki-Woo).
The only problem is that Su-Eun is a deaf mute with
a scar on the side of her cheek, facts which prevents
her from approaching Sang-Gyu without wearing her oversized
mask and costume. With the help of her ridiculously
cute co-workers, the Seven Dwarves, Su-Eun hopes to
overcome her shyness and connect with the handsome artist.
Then there's Ju-Yung (Yeom
Jung-Ah), a working mother whose commitment to her job
causes a rift between her and her lonely son Hui-Chan
(Yeo Jin-Goo). Things begin to change when Ju-Yung is
caught in a car accident and sent to the hospital. While
his mother is laid up in a hospital bed, Hui-Chan stumbles
upon his mother's diaries and begins to learn the truth
about his conception, birth, and early childhood. Soon,
he begins to bond with his mother, just as she discovers
that she's suffering from cancer.
Along the way, Hui-Chan
crosses paths with Ha-Seok (Cha Tae-Hyun of My Sassy
Girl), an unemployed shlub who makes extra money
as a human punching bag for a local boxer. Meanwhile,
his girlfriend Suk-Hyun (Son Tae-Yung) is sick of her
dead-end job as a cashier and when Ha-Seok's credit
card is declined at her place of employment, she realizes
she's tired of waiting for her boyfriend to grow up
and promptly dumps him. Ha-Seok begs her to give him
a three month grace period and heads off seeking steady
employment. After a chance encounter with a woman breaking
up with her boyfriend, Ha-Seok hatches a scheme to start
a "Separation Agency" that will break up relationships
when one party is too scared to do it face-to-face.
His wild idea quickly turns into a lucrative business,
giving Ha-Seok hope that he'll finally win his girlfriend
At face value, Sad
Movie is a collection of tried-and-true formulas.
There's the couple with commitment issues, the shy girl
caught up in a "Meet Cute" scenario with the
boy of her dreams, the mother-son terminal illness tearjerker,
and the gimmicky, high concept romantic comedy all on
display in Sad Movie. While it's arguable that
each story could stand on its own, it's perhaps wise
that the filmmakers decided to intercut among the four.
Not only does the decision make for a more involving
film, but it also ensures that each storyline doesn't
wear out its welcome.
Despite what the title
suggests, Sad Movie is a consistently funny film.
It has all the makings of a light, fluffy romantic comedy,
but to its credit, it's a thoroughly enjoyable one.
That's not to say that the film isn't full of emotion
(as is the case with the mother-son cancer storyline),
but much of Sad Movie is anything but sad or
depressing. Ha-Seok's unflappable dedication to his
new job, Hui-Chan's kiddy antics, Su-Eun's internal
snarky commentary, and Jin-Woo's clueless behavior all
provide ample chuckles throughout the picture. What
stands out most about the film is how intensely likeable
the all-star cast is, a quality that allows the viewer
to immediately get involved in the story and hope things
will work out for the best.
And that's the trick being
played on the audience in Sad Movie. After more
than an hour of warming the heart and tickling the funny
bone of its audience, Sad Movie takes a melodramatic
turn for the worse. As the saying goes around LoveHKFilm.com,
IT ALL GOES TO HELL! Everything that can go wrong does
go wrong for our heroes in brutally swift succession.
Considering all the goodwill the film has accrued up
until that point, when all the gloom and doom is handed
out, it feels like a kick to the chest. Although there
were some tears shed by the audience, this reviewer
was dry-eyed, mainly out of shock, as the film proceeded
to end on perhaps the lowest note possible.
To be fair to the filmmakers,
in addition to the title, the storylines themselves
do actually give audiences a clue as to what will transpire.
A man unwilling to give up his dangerous job, a mother
afflicted with cancer, a girl too shy to show her face
to the boy she has a crush on, and a guy trying to win
back his girlfriend who dumped him all seem like recipes
for disaster in varying degrees. But still, with the
filmmakers unceremoniously pulling the rug out from
under the viewer after all that positive build-up, the
ending ultimately begs the question, "Why?"
Just to be different?
In some ways, Sad Movie
can be read as a send-up of the various clichés
that typify melodramas and romantic comedies. By dashing
the audience's expectations, perhaps the filmmakers
want to emphasize that in real life, there are no guarantees
for a happy ending. While such genre-tweaking innovation
can be admired, the execution of the ending seems a
bit overblown. Truthfully, three of the endings aren't
too devastating, but the final one, the one that serves
as Sad Movie's capper, is a little too over the
top, as if the filmmakers were purposely trying to elicit
tears. That's not to say that Sad Movie should
have had a gloriously happy ending. Such a climax would
have felt fake to be sure, but something more bittersweet,
and ending with a little more light in the darkness
might have felt slightly more satisfying.
But having said all that,
the fact remains that Sad Movie is an entertaining
ride up until the quadruple sad ending. Fans of My
Sassy Girl will be delighted to see Cha Tae-Hyun
again, as the actor nearly steals the show from his
equally famous co-stars. The other actors do well with
their characters with Shin Min-Ah and child actor Yeo
Jin-Goo being particular standouts. On the basis of
the intense likeability of the characters, the mostly
humorous content, and the deft juggling of the various
storylines, Sad Movie definitely merits at least
one viewing. Repeat viewings, however, might be a challenge.
So be forewarned: no matter how happy this movie gets,
when the filmmakers say the title is Sad Movie,
they aren't kidding around. (Calvin McMillin, 2005)
Region 3 NTSC
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable Korean and English Subtitles
Copyright ©2002-2012 Ross Chen