“What Happened Last Night?” represents quite a radical change of direction for Korean director Kim Jeong Min, who made his debut with “Dark Forest” from the horror collection “One Day Suddenly”. Here, he turns his hand to romantic comedy, though with somewhat of an amoral and adult twist.
The film’s plot can be boiled down to the rather morally dubious high concept premise of a woman trying to discover who she slept with on a drunken one night stand. The woman in question is Yoo Jin (actress Ye Ji Won, who recently headlined the comedy hits “Femme Fatale” and “Old Miss Diary”), recently fired from her job and with no real prospects in life for career or romance. Appropriately nicknamed ‘Crazy Hair Annie’, she awakes after a raucous night out to find herself in a hotel room with no memory of how she got there, and with all the tell tale signs that she did not spend the night alone. Partly enraged at the fact that her companion hot-footed it away without settling the bill, she sets out to find the man in question, helped by her long suffering best friend Cheol Jin (Tak Jae Hoon, also in “Little Prince” and “The Worst Guy Ever”), who may or may not be harbouring a secret yearning for her himself.
As should be pretty obvious, Yoo Jin is the latest in a long line of sassy styled female protagonists, in this case with her main defining features being her latent unreliability and excessive drinking. Thankfully, director Kim succeeds where so many other similarly themed films have failed by managing to strike the right balance between making her aggressively and wacky, yet at the same time sympathetic and likeable. Although she spends most of the film behaving very badly indeed, wracking up an impressive number of alcohol related mishaps, blackouts and speaking her mind, which generally involves being rude to people, the viewer warms to her quickly and supports her in her awkward quest. Given the central premise the film is a cheerfully immoral affair, and though not mean spirited, this does make it quite different from the average Korean romantic comedy, at least until the final act when things suddenly get a little more serious and the clichés start to rear their heads. Even then, Kim wisely does resist throwing in too much in the way of melodrama, and he allows his characters the dignity of not suddenly transforming into sensible yet moist eyed human beings.
The plot itself is basically pretty silly, with Yoo Jin’s investigative methods being bizarre and random to say the least, involving her bouncing from suspect to suspect and accusing them of taking advantage of her. Still, given the film’s modest ambitions this works well and the proceedings play out as a series of amusing set pieces. Of course, the actual guilty party is pretty obvious from the first scene, though this never detracts from the fun, with this kind of easy going predictability being very much par for the course. Certainly, this is the type of film which only really sets out to entertain and to give the viewer a good time, and on that level it definitely succeeds.
Although the film is a bawdy comedy and packs in a great deal of sexual humour, most of this never gets past the level of innuendo, and there are no gross out gags in the “Sex is Zero” style. There is however a lot of frank language and as such the film is a distinctly adult affair, though refreshingly so, and it still manages to retain a certain sweet hearted naivety. As expected, there is a fair amount of slapstick, with Ye Ji Won turning in a game performance and making her fair share of pratfalls, and with the rest of the cast generally having a fine time running into lampposts and being hit in the face with food. This aside, the film does have a pleasingly sharp script and is actually quite witty in places, showing a nice vein of cynical humour that fits perfectly with the slightly depressing premise.
Again, this helps “What Happened Last Night?” to stand out from the vastly over-crowded romantic comedy field, and it provides a much needed and highly enjoyable antidote to fans tired of the genre churning out squeaky clean films filled with doe eyed teen protagonists.
Kim Jeong-min (director) / Kim Jeong-min, Do Soon-ah (screenplay)
CAST: Ye Ji-won, Tak Jae-hoon, Kim Hyeon-sook, Lee Jae-hoon-I, Kyeong-joon, Cha Seo-won, Choi Seung-kyeong, Kim Hyeong-beom