Following on from her award winning turn in the historical mystery “Shadows in the Palace”, actress Park Jin Hee’s stock continues to rise with the spirited romantic comedy “Lost and Found”. The film marks the debut of writer director Jeong Jeong Hwa, who tries something a little different with the usual formula by basing everything around deception – the literal translation of the title, “Sweet Lie” is certainly appropriate. With Park in the lead and a heartthrob heavy supporting cast, the film was always going to be easy on the eyes, though it’s the witty script and Jeong’s deft touch that helps elevate it above the hordes of similarly themed efforts.
Park plays Ji Ho, a somewhat familiar protagonist – late 20s, television writer, perennial singleton, sassy and somewhat of a drunk. After a particularly bad day in which she loses her job and her handbag is stolen, she gets hit by a car. When the driver turns out to be Min Woo (Lee Ki Woo, recently in “Someone Behind You” and “Sad Movie”), her long unrequited high school love who she still obsesses over, she pretends to have lost her memory in order to worm her way into his life. This doesn’t sit too well with Dong Sik (Jo Han Sun, also in “Romance of Their Own” and “Cruel Winter Blues”), her friend and neighbour who just happens to have a crush on her. Suspecting her memory loss to be a ruse, Dong Sik decides to try to win her heart through a little trickery of his own, telling her that they have been dating for years. With so many lies flying around, the scene is set for a battle of wills and wits as Ji Ho tries to figure out what her heart really wants.
Packing in fake amnesia, comic misunderstandings and an unlikely love triangle, “Lost and Found” is pretty standard in terms of plot, right from the opening scenes of poor drunk Ji Ho bemoaning her life all the way through to the sentimental final act. Director Jeong seems to know his way around the genre, and manages to press all of the right buttons without relying too obviously on the usual clichés. With the ranks of the Korean romantic comedy swelling every month, and with films rarely deviating from the popular formula, the performance of the lead star is increasingly becoming the yardstick of quality and the factor on which they sink or swim. In this case, the film is fortunate to have Park Jin Hee, who is on great form, and manages to somehow make her manipulate liar of a protagonist into a cute, sympathetic figure. It certainly helps that she is quite obviously a talented actress, and although the script doesn’t give her too much to work with beyond falling over from time to time and throwing murderous looks at anyone who comes close to revealing her secret, she does manage to add a little depth and winning humanity to the role.
As a result, the film’s romance, despite being based entirely on lies and stalker-like fantasy, works fairly well, and makes for engaging viewing, if only to see which of her beaus Ji Ho will end up with. Although her plan is an odd one to say the least, the viewer does get caught up in her quest thanks to her grim sense of determination, and the film, if not exactly moving, does wrap things up in satisfying and fitting fashion. Jeong keeps things from ever getting too saccharine, and admirably holds off from the inevitable melodrama right until the end, and as such the film benefits from a bouncy, energetic feel. The comedy is generally amusing, with a good mix of slapstick and embarrassment gags, most of which revolve around Ji Ho’s daft scheming or clumsiness. There are a number of genuinely funny scenes, and this helps to lift the tempo and to ensure a sense of fun throughout.
It’s this feel good factor which makes “Lost and Found” such breezily entertaining viewing, and although it doesn’t offer anything particularly new Park’s charismatic performance marks it as one of the better Korean romantic comedies of late. Fans of the actress or the genre will certainly have a good time, and the film is just about funny enough for general appeal or for viewers happy enough to switch off and enjoy some light-hearted laughs.
Jeong Jeong-hwa (director) / Jeong Jeong-hwa, Yoo Seung-hee (screenplay)
CAST: Park Jin-hee, Jo Han-seon, Lee Ki-woo, Kim Dong-wuk, Jo Jin-woong