I am so glad William, @woopak_the_thrill, recommended My Sassy Girl in his Valentine's Day list. I wasn't sure what to expect since the trailer was in Korean, a language which I obviously do not speak. Even after the movie started, I found myself saying, "What the...?" This is not your traditional romantic comedy, especially if all you are used to is the crap that America cinema produces. Be prepared for a different type of love story. In fact, I would classify this movie as a romantic drama with a sprinkle of humor, most of which I actually didn't find funny. Of course, I am not a funny person, so humor is often lost on me. What is truly amazing is that this script is based off a true story that was written on the Internet as a serial read. This additional information makes that movie more enjoyable because the characters are not just fictional creations: this is a person's love story!
One of the strongest points about this movie, beside the story, are the characters. First, there is our lead hero, Kyun-woo, played by Tae-hyun Cha. Unlike many American male leads in romantic movies, Kyun-woo is a docile, nice man, almost feminine in his presentation. At the beginning of the movie, he explains how he thought he was a girl until age seven! At first, his attitude and monologues were strange. I'm used to a lead romantic hero that is a jerk who needs reforming from the heroine. Eventually, Kyun-woo's charm began to take over. I found myself wishing I had dated such an attentive and sweet man. There are many poignant scenes throughout the movie where I found my eyes tearing up because of Kyun-woo's actions toward his "sassy girl." He goes through so much for the woman he loves. It's an admirable trait that I wish more romantic movies embraced. After all, love is often about sacrifice.
Next, there is our sassy girl, Ji-hyun Jun, played by Gianna Jun. My first opinion of her was utter shock. She did not act like your typical romantic heroine, at least not the types I've come to expect from American movies. She was so sassy that she was downright rude and mean! She has all the masculine jerkiness that her counter-part lacked. She was always yelling at Kyun-woo and threatening to kill him if he didn't do things her way. She even beats him up on multiple occasions! I kept asking myself: What sane man would put himself through all this abuse? I felt sorry for Kyun-woo, and I wanted him to find someone better.
Both Kyun-woo and Ji-hyun reminded me of a very valuable lesson: "Never judge a book by its cover." As the movie progressed, my initial distaste of the characters changed to an adoration for all they stood for. I absolutely loved both characters by the end of the movie. Part of my transformed feelings came about by the eventual revelation of their back-stories, which I won't spoil here. Part of the fun to this movie is learning more about the two college students and their attraction to each other.
There were other comical supporting characters, such as Kyun-woo's mother, who beats him whenever he doesn't come home, and Ji-hyun's drunk father. These characters actually added a lot of humor to the story as well as other details concerning the characters' pasts.
The movie is divided into three parts: Part 1, Part 2, and Overtime. Of the three, Overtime was my favorite section. Part 1 felt too long and confusing. There were many elements to the story that caused me to ask, "What is happening?" Again, I felt like a lot of the humorous situations were lost on me, especially all the throwing up! When I watched those scenes, I thought I was going to lose my dinner. Part 2 was the most balanced section of the movie. This is where their relationship really develops. There were many romantic scenes that made me smile or want to cry, especially Kyun-woo's list.
Despite their differences, Kyun-woo and Ji-hyun are determined to find love and enrich each other's lives. The storyline is a bit basic: boy falls in love with a girl who's not his type while girl resists and keeps boy at arm's length. There were some cute twists to the plot, though, which made it worthwhile. I especially liked that the characters had reversed roles, at least according to traditional American customs. Kyun-woo is very feminine while Ji-hyun is very masculine and aggressive--she is determined to win at everything. She doesn't care if her actions hurt Kyun-woo or puts him down. After all, she is a sassy girl! Another unusual twist to the story were all of Ji-hyun's screenplays. They were so ridiculous but fun (and are later inspirations for other movies in this series).
The scenery was beautiful. I've never been to Korea, but I liked seeing the tram system, dance clubs, universities, and the rustic mountains and meadow areas. As an American, I got glimpses into different parts of the Korean culture and landscape. Of course, there were still many elements lost to me, but that fact didn't deter from the overall enjoyment of the movie. The excellent camera angles and different zoom shots allowed the beauty of the area to stand out as well as the passion and pain of the characters. More films would benefit from these excellent directing and shooting techniques, such as the very first time Kyun-woo carries his sassy girl.
Last, but not least, is the amazing score! I loved all the songs even though I couldn't understand some of the Korean ones. My subtitle computer program did not translate the songs when I used it to code for the film's dialog. Of course, the use of the American song "My Girl" was priceless for the theme of the film. And then there was the wedding cannon song, which always sends chills up my spine.
My only other complaint than the few I've mentioned was the overuse of monologues for Kyun-woo. Some were unnecessary because the actions of the characters expressed his thoughts. There were occasions, though, when it was very necessary, like the scene in the taxi-cab. In the end, using private monologues in a film can be a difficult feat for a director. However, Jae-young Kwak did a commendable job. He stayed true to the spirit of the original serial Internet story by incorporating the monologues into his film.
This movie is more than meets the eye. It has comedy, love, sadness, and grief. It's a roller coaster will highs and lows that leaves you wanting to take the ride again. It's an unforgettable tale that you will watch numerous times, especially since there are many interesting points you probably missed the first time around.
I do not like romantic teen comedies; I occasionally see one only when I'm with a date. I think teen romantic comedies are so full of clichés and stereotypical characters, the premise of most I've seen is so predictable and need I say it? DULL. However, a few years ago, I came across "My SASSY GIRL" which came highly recommended by a friend. Directed by Kwak Jae-Young, it is loosely based on real-life experiences of Kim Ho-Sik, which he posted as an internet … more
This film has been so successful that it spawned a TV series in South Korea and remade in a "straight to dvd" Hollywood movie with the same title with Elisha Cuttbert in the lead. Korean Bombshell Jyeon Ji-Hyeon will be playing the lead in the anime adapted live-action movie "Blood the Last Vampire" scheduled to be released in 2009.