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  My Sassy Girl Too Hot to Handle
Year: 2001
Director: Kwak Jae-Yong
Stars: Jeon Ji Hyun, Cha Tae Hyun, Jin Hie Han, Sook Hee Hyun, Il Woo Kim
Genre: Comedy, Romance, WeirdoBuy from Amazon
Rating:  9 (from 1 vote)
Review: A South Korean rom-com that became a bonafide film phenomenon, outside the English-speaking world. My Sassy Girl was a smash hit across Asia, spawning spin-offs, rip-offs and remakes including a Hollywood version starring the lovely Elisha Cuthbert. Film lovers and true romantics will want to see the original first, wherein a chance encounter on a late night train takes slacker student Gyeon-woo (Cha Tae Hyun) and turns his lazy, no-hoper existence upside down. A drunk, rowdy girl (Jeon Ji Hyun) bitch slaps a rude punk, barfs on an old man and inadvertently makes everyone think she is Gyeon-woo’s girlfriend. Thus forcing the hapless doof to clean her mess and carry her on his back to the nearest motel where, after running naked from the shower to answer the phone, Gyeon-woo is arrested for public indecency and left snivelling in jail alongside some hard-nosed gangsters.

The next morning, he gets a phone call from the outraged girl demanding to know what happened. So Gyeon-woo finds himself sucked into a strange relationship with this gorgeous, but clearly troubled girl (whose name we never learn) who picks fights with strangers, has an obsession with time-travel and takes wild flights of fancy she then scribbles in crayon as screenplays he is forced to read.

A rare romantic comedy that grips from start to finish, this segues effortlessly from laugh-out loud funny to heart-swelling romance and affecting drama, as slowly we unearth the tragedy behind the heroine’s weird behaviour (the Korean title translates literally as “My Weird Girl”). A bravura, star-making performance from leading lady Jeon Ji Hyun and the deadpan hilarity of Cha Tae Hyun provide the perfect launching pad for gifted writer-director Kwak Jae-yong to bounce off some dynamic visual storytelling. The story breezes along, never missing an emotional beat, layered with childhood flashbacks, movie parodies (including a James Cameron action movie, a traditional Korean melodrama and a period martial arts epic with the girl casting herself as a sword-swinging heroine) and truly inspired slapstick. The highpoint being a disastrous birthday trip to the amusement park, where the couple are held hostage by a crazed gunman and have to talk their way out of a siege situation involving hundreds of trigger-happy S.W.A.T. cops.

Remarkably, the film is based on a true story, told in a series of love letters posted on the internet by writer Kim Ho Sik, before they were adapted into a novel. Divided in three chapters, things turn reflective and poignant as the girl’s parents prevent her from seeing “the dumb kid with no future” and the pair resolve to reunite in two years to unearth a time capsule they’ve buried. Although the story grows more emotional and less surreal, Jae-yong never neglects the comedy, merely suffuses it with warmth. Its plot works best in an Asian context, given these two college kids never even kiss let alone have sex, and where its tweaking of traditional gender roles and social conventions is more transgressive.

The finale weaves in a surprising suggestion of sci-fi and wraps things up quite elegantly, scored with a heart-melting rendition of Pachelbel’s Canon in D.

Click here to watch a clip from the movie

Click here to watch Jeon Ji Hyun in Probably the Sexiest Tea Advert Ever

Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam

 

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