Summer Movie List: “Sad Movie” (2005) dir. Kwon Jong-Kwan

This isn’t on my final 100 list because I was watching the film while typing away at my laptop about the list.

When your movie is titled “Sad Movie,” it’s hard to really get invested without feeling like you’re being manipulated into feeling things before you can even see what’s happening. If you’re a fan of Korean entertainment, you’re in for a treat because of the many movie and TV stars that are in this film. Who do they have? Jung Woo Sung, Im Soo Jung, Cha Tae-hyun being adorable and cute like always, Son Tae-young, Yeom Jeong Ah, a very young Yeo Jin Goo (in his debut), Shin Min-ah, and Lee Ki Woo. I like most of the actors listed above and all of them work really hard to make this film special.

The film tells four different stories somehow interconnected with each other. It’s a formula that has stopped working in Hollywood with duds like Valentines’ Day or New Years’ Eve (but this film precedes those). Jin Woo (Jung Woo Sung) is a firefighter looking to propose to his girlfriend Soo Jung (Im Soo Jung), a sign language translator for the news, who is always afraid for his safety in the job. Her sister Soo-eun (Shin Min-ah) is a deaf girl with a facial scar, working as a mascot at a theme park, hiding her face behind a giant mask. She has a crush on a theme park artist Sanggyu (Lee Ki Woo), who is planning on studying abroad within a month. In another story, unemployed Jung Ha Seok (Cha Tae Hyun) gets dumped by his girlfriend Sukhyun (Son Taeyoung), a cashier at a grocery store, because he doesn’t have stable employment. He then got a job delivering break-up messages to people. Lastly, Yeom Joo Young (Yeom Jung Ah) is a busy mom who spends little time with her son Hee-chan (Yeo Jin Goo). But when a cancer diagnosis leaves her in the hospital, Jooyoung and her son reconnect.

The story is full of humor and a lot of sentimental moments that perfectly honors its title even if the director sometimes strains too hard for emotional effect. Each frame is flooded with light, seeping through windows, and giving the film an ethereal glow that makes the film like a scene in the afterlife. The soundtrack is light and peppy but juxtaposed against the sadder moments, it seems almost destined to make you cry. The best scenes in the film are the ones between Soo-eun and Sanggyu, who makes such a cute-looking couple, but is doubly funny because most of their scenes involve physical and visual humor.

What I don’t buy about the entire film is just how contrived each moment feels, which is a problem with films with overlapping stories in general. Nothing in each story really affects any other story but they all overlap in one way or another as if to say that they all exist in the same world. In other words, logic doesn’t really play into how the story is set-up but it’s designed for maximum star visibility.

But at the same time, those actors really make this film more enjoyable than it really should be. Cha Tae-hyun, even if I’ve seen him do this kind of acting a million times, is just so good at acting like a schlub but a lovable one. He nails his one dramatic scene but he’s just as good, if not better, in his lighter and funnier scenes. Yeom Jung Ah is a wonderful actress and she proves what a tremendous dramatic actor she is with the slow-burning reaction shots and the gentle but firm way she scolds her son. Lastly, Yeo Jin Goo’s debut performance promises such a bright future and I can see what makes him special in later films and TV shows here.

Ultimately, the film proves to be a good watch, even if it is disposable.

Rating: B-