he oddest thing about Jae-young Kwak's "My Sassy
Girl" is that its entire premise of a young, 20-something woman acting outrageous and
going against the norm of how a "young woman" is supposed to behave is
not, well, all that outrageous. Perhaps in Korean society, which takes its cue
from the closed and internalize structure of Japanese culture, the Girl
character played by Ji-hyun Jun might be "out there." To everyone else
she just comes across as a free-spirit and not the 10,000
pound elephant squatting in the middle of the living room that characters in the movie
make her out to be.
"My Sassy Girl" begins innocently enough with
Kyun-woo, a 20-something college student waiting for the subway after some
drinks with the boys. That's when he encounters a 20-something girl (or young woman,
actually) who is obviously very drunk. Kyun-woo, seeing that the girl is
unbalanced and standing too close to the edge of the tracks, quickly pulls her
away, probably saving her life. Later in the subway car, the girl causes a
scene, but not before turning to Kyun-woo and calling him "Honey," thereby implicating him in her
problems (or at least in the other passengers' eyes). After injecting himself
into the Girl's life, Kyun-woo starts to fall for her, but that's easier done
than, well, surviving it.
Ji-hyun Jun is the titular Sassy Girl, who goes nameless
throughout the movie. Even when we meet her family and parents, we still have no
idea what her name is. The movie is supposed to be modeled after a real story about
a "sassy girl" that appeared in serialized form on the Internet.
Regardless, Ji-hyun Jun ("The
Uninvited") is the only
real reason to watch this movie. "My Sassy Girl" is a comedy, and there are
some very funny moments in it, but it's Ji-hyun who gives the film its
heart and soul. As the tough girl with a heart of gold, she is nearly flawless. Even
when she kicks and punches at the men in her life, she still comes across as
utterly charming and incapable of doing any wrong. You will be smitten by
the young lady's performance.
Tae-hyun Cha (Kyun-woo) on the other hand mistakes making a permanently constipated face for acting. Both actors look to
be in their late teens to early '20s, but they're playing mid-20-somethings, and
it doesn't quite work. They're much too young for their roles (a rather odd
"problem" with actor and their roles, to be sure). "My Sassy
Girl" works best when it inserts oddball
scenes like Kyun-woo's dramatic but surreal interpretations of the Girl's many scripts. You
see, the Girl has delusions of being a writer, and forces Kyun-woo to read all
of her scripts, threatening him with physical violence if he doesn't like them.
As Kyun-woo reads the scripts, the scenes play out like flights of fantasy in
Unfortunately all the credentials the movie builds
up, and even the charm of Jun, can't save the film once it falls into the
kiss-of-death that is Asian Melodrama. The movie goes downhill very fast, the
laughs cease completely and the movie struggles mightily toward that final,
oh-so predictable ending. Jun's Girl was so good, so tough and yet so
vulnerable, that the movie could have kept its laughs and still driven its point
home. Instead, it completely abandoned what it had built up for the last hour
and a half to give us a sappy ending.
"My Sassy Girl" is a good movie and I suppose it might
have been hard to sustain its superior beginning and middle.
By movie's end, the title should have been changed to "My Sappy Film". But
as the saying goes, it was good while it lasted.