Korean Movies You Should Watch Before You Die #10

October 8, 2010

This is a guest post by Nick Mann

Scandal Makers

In a previous post I discussed Happiness as an introduction to Korean melodramatic film.  Now for comedy…

Hyeon-soo (Cha Tae-hyun of My Sassy Girl) is the host of a popular afternoon radio show and minor celebrity in Seoul.  He leads the life of a playboy, with an immaculate condo, strict routine and busy dating schedule.  This all changes when a teenage girl shows up at his door claiming to be his daughter.  To make matters worse, his daughter has brought her young son.  All at once Hyeon-soo discovers he is a grandfather.  That’s the basic premise of Speedy Scandal (2008)

With this scenario the scene is set for an inexhaustible number of comedic situations as Hyeon-soo tries to balance the lifestyle he is accustomed to with the responsibilities of a parent.  The film doesn’t disappoint.  Cha’s portrayal of Hyeon-soo is mischievous and self-centered to the point of humorous audacity, but he still has a certain guileless charm that wins over audiences.  Park Bo-yeong is well cast as his average-looking teenage daughter and Hwang Seo-hyeon steals scenes as the irresistibly cute grandson.

The problem with this movie, as with so many other Korean comedies, is that the light atmosphere is interrupted by a rising (melo)dramatic current as the plot progresses.  In the case of many comedies a confused final act with tears and confounding plot twists could well leave an uninitiated viewer feeling as though they watched the conclusion of a different film.  What saves Speedy Scandal is that it manages to turn the drama back upon itself with a surprisingly humorous twist.

Overall, the simple and plausible (though unlikely) premise is one that most people can enjoy regardless of age, gender or culture.  Being as the concept is universal, don’t be surprised if a Hollywood version is released in the future.  There is already talk that Barry Sonnenfeld would take the helm as director. (Read more here)

This isn’t the first time Korean comedy has been discussed on this site. David recommended Please Teach Me English and in a previous post I discussed My Sassy Girl **. However in some respects it’s hard to recommend a perfectly complete Korean comedy.  I have yet to see a Korean comedy that measures up to the likes of Annie Hall or Big Lebowski – I freely admit that a statement like that is demanding Asian art to conform to my Western sensibilities nonetheless it goes to show that cultural ideas of what’s funny differ from place to place and as such Korean comedy is an acquired taste.  On the other hand you’ll never know whether you like it if you don’t try.  Below are some YouTube clips that convey the essence of Korean humor in film.  Generally, it’s never subtle…

200 Pound Beauty

Old Miss Diary (1:40)

My Sassy Girl (4:50)

My Wife is a Gangster 3

* This movie appears to have two English titles: Speedy Scandal and alternatively Scandal Makers.

** In the Sassy Girl post I pointed out the knack Korean women have for comedy – I’ve noticed the above clips betray my bias for Korean comediennes over comedians.


One comment

  1. […] 10 Scandal Makers […]

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