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aka “Wonderful Radio”
As its title suggests, “Love On-Air” is a radio themed Korean romantic comedy, which revolves around popular actress Lee Min Jung (“Cyrano Agency”) as a DJ and former pop star juggling problems in life and love. Directed by Kwon Chil On (“Hellcats”), the film also features Lee Jung Jin (“Troubleshooter”) as her potential beau, with support from comedian Lee Kwang Soo (“City Hunter”), Kim Jung Tae (“He’s On Duty”), and Jung Yu Mi (“A Thousand Days’ Promise”), plus cameos from real life rocker Kim Tae Won, and Kim Jong Kook and Gary (Lee Kwang Soo’s co-stars on the Korean variety show “Running Man”).
Lee Min Jung stars as Jin Ah, who in her younger years was a member of top idol group Purple, and who now works as a radio DJ on the show Wonderful Radio. With the program going through a rough patch and listener figures dropping off, the studio brings in a new, tougher producer called Jae Ik (Lee Jung Jin), who soon sets about piling the pressure on Jin Ah and her team. To his surprise, Jae Ik finds himself warming to her, and Jin Ah actually comes up with a winner of a new idea for a new segment which involves bringing in everyday people to tell their stories and sing songs. Although this proves popular and Wonderful Radio is soon riding high in the ratings, a rival sets out to ruin her career and her attempts to get back into singing herself.
Kwon Chil On is a director who seems to work well with actresses and with more female-oriented stories, as seen in his previous outings “Hellcats” and “Loveholic”, and “Love On-Air” has a similar feel and tackles many of the same themes. Where this again works well is in that while dealing almost exclusively with its female protagonist, the film never becomes too much of a generic chick flick, having a variety of subplots and some reasonably well written and grounded characters. Although wholly predictable, the script is decent, and plays very much to its strengths, never patronising its audience or straying too far into trite melodrama. There’s a definite effort to define Jin Ah as a woman through more than just her burgeoning romance with Jae Ik, and the film benefits by spending just as much, if not more time focusing on her career worries and attempts to figure out where she is going in her life.
Though there’s nothing too deep here, Kwon does enough to keep the film interesting, and the mix of romance, drama and comedy is well balanced throughout, with a gentle charm and sense of humour that’s funny without ever pushing things too hard. The musical theme works well too, and the various pop songs scattered throughout help to make for a bright and upbeat feel as the film builds to its inevitable concert finale. There’s also a neat line in music industry references, both through the various cameos and some girl band related gags, all of which lend the proceedings a slight, though effective air of authenticity.
For any film like this, the most crucial element is the stars, and Lee Min Jung does a solid, likeable job as Jin Ah, winning enough sympathy and never allowing her to become too ditzy or unconvincing. Definitely a more believable protagonist than seen in many other recent romantic comedies, Jin Ah does come across as a real woman with real problems and confused dreams, and this gives the story a boost and distracts somewhat from its familiarity. Though more of a bit part player, Lee Jung Jin is also fine (playing a very different role than in his other recent outing, the child molestation drama “No Doubt”), and there’s a genuine spark between the two. The film’s romance is all the better for not being overplayed, and by the time it does finally take centre stage, Kwon has done enough groundwork to make it convincing and natural.
“Love On-Air” is a fine example of the kind of slick, attractive romantic comedies which Korean cinema does so well. Without offering anything new, it’s a well made, appealing film that performs exactly as hoped and should leave the right kind of viewer with a big smile on their face.
Chil-in Kwon (director)
CAST: Min-jung Lee … Sin Jin-ah
Jeong-jin Lee … Lee Jae-hyeok
Kwang Soo … Dae-geun
Jeong-tae Kim … In-seok
Yu-mi Jeong … Nan-seol
Hae-suk Kim … Mrs. Lee