Friday, 17 October 2008

Heh heh heh. That's exactly what I thought the first time I saw it. Roboseyo's Untimely Film Reviews, part II

"My Sassy Girl," Jeon Jihyun's breakthrough film role (though really, the Samsung commercial and the Giordano commercial will be the reasons she's remembered), was a huge hit in Korea, and remade into a Hollywood film staring Elisha Cuthbert and something something something.

The Korean movie's Trailer:


The Hollywood Remake's Trailer:

(IMDB page)

The Hollywood version tested so poorly with audiences they cut their losses and sent it straight to video. Article here.

"My Sassy Girl" — a smash hit in its native South Korea in 2001 — went straight to video in the US because men rejected its premise of a male character putting up with a bossy love interest in American test screenings, Lee said Friday.


Here's my summary of the movie:

Guy meets beautiful girl.
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!*
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!**
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!***
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
Jeon Jihyun dances. She's hawt.
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
A limp excuse for her ridiculously self-absorbed behavior is half-heartedly presented.
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!****
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
She treats him horribly, but he dotes on her dutifully, because she's just THAT DARN BEAUTIFUL!
Some sad stuff happens. They can't be together for some stupid reason.
Long after he's given up hope of meeting her again, they meet again, through a coincidence that strains credulity, then bursts it, stomps it, and poops on it.
She finally realizes he's the man for her.
Movie over.

* at this point, I'd stopped buying the film.
** by this point, I had not even a single shred of respect for the male lead anymore, and wanted to punch him and tell him to grow a pair.
*** beauty nothin': by this point it could have been Audrey Hepburn and I'd have kicked her to the curb for constantly treating me like a turd
**** heavens to betsy they're still stretching this garbage out?

I KNEW this movie wouldn't fly in North America. Knew it. No man would watch another man be treated like such a sap for the entire duration of a movie. Meanwhile, many Korean women I've met love this movie, and think it's touching how the guy dotes on the girl, without ever thinking about how completely emasculated he's been -- degraded to a level reserved for discarded cellphone accessories -- and wish a guy would dote on THEM like that. To them, I usually answer, "Do you want a boyfriend, or a puppy?"

And every once in a while, I meet a young lady who seems to have taken this movie as a how-to-guide on how to attract a man. And I lose interest about the way you do when you realize that the chocolate bar you saw on the table is actually cat poop.

(kinda like this)


Doesn't. Work. (unless you want a man you can't respect)

There's another movie that sets an even WORSE pattern for young women's behaviour in Korean society. . . but only one I can think of, and I'm saving my write-up on that one up for a proper, spittle-flying frothing rant-down.  

Sure, there are cultural reasons why Korean women might gain some vicarious pleasure from seeing a woman treating a man like poop for ninety minutes, in a culture that is still recovering from having sexism institutionalized pretty much at every level possible, and if a movie like this is part of the recovery process, fair enough. . . I don't have enough sociological background to explore that in depth, but I can understand the movie's existence, from that perspective.

(update: on the comment board, James Turnbull, who is eminently qualified to expand upon these points, provides some context for what I mean, but ultimately dodge, here.)

However, I still don't have to like it, and whatever the movie represents aside, as a matter of personal taste, I found the movie charmless, and the characters unlikeable (the cardinal sin for me watching movies).  I just didn't want to spend time with these people.

Anyway: here's to North American girls NOT having this crap model of femininity foisted upon them.



(PS: For another rant/review I wrote back when nobody read my blog: Here's what I said about D-War back in January!)

30 comments:

Foreigner Joy said...

I cried at the end of the Korean version.

Even now when I am in the subway I think of that scene.

Sigh~

Roboseyo said...

really? then I guess I'm an unfeeling, cynical emotionally dead jerk-ass.

Just kidding. . . all I know is that I respected the girl so little for being so selfish, and respected the guy so little for taking her abuse, that by the end of the movie I didn't care whether they go what they wanted or not.

I'm glad you liked it; it just wasn't my cup of tea.

the Korean said...

100% agreed with analysis, although somehow women freakin LOVE that movie, and not just Korean women either -- any woman who somehow watched the Korean version, including white/black/Hispanic friends of mine not to mention various Asian ethnicities, love the movie somehow. I never understood it.

Foreigner Joy said...

yea I can see it having those elements. It certainly was kind of fairytale like. But I saw that she was being a bad ass because she was going through something painful and that was the only way for her to cope. I didn't know too why he followed her around.. I guess because she was cute. But I think I just pinned it on thats what Korean guys do.

Anyways, I think I cried at the end because I didn't expect what happened at the end.

Have you seen any of Kim Duk's films...? Like:
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring?

His other films are lovely too.

wevegotseoul said...

I think I kinda just puked a bit from watching those trailers.

Roboseyo said...

I just threw up a little bit in my mouth from reading about YOU throwing up in your mouth.

On the other hand. . . if you can make a movie that almost every woman likes. . . who cares about the male audience? Just toss us a 007 DVD and we'll leave you alone.

Lindsay said...

Speaking as a woman, I COMPLETELY agree with your assessment of MY SASSY GIRL! I'm so glad to find someone else who hates this film; everyone I know (male and female) loves it, for some unfathomable reason. It wasn't romantic; it was annoying. The main character is a total witch, and if I ever met someone like her, I would last about two minutes before punching her in the head. Girl's got issues? Whatever. That's no excuse for being such a terrible person. Build a bridge and get over it, honey.

The other poor role model for women that you mention... Is it from 300 POUNDS BEAUTY, by any chance? That's another horrendous movie that my friends adore, while I walked away thoroughly disgusted.

I second foreigner joy's recommendation of KIM Ki-duk movies, though I might recommend his earlier, angrier work over his more recent stuff.

wevegotseoul said...

I am a woman and the double entendres of 007 are just as painful.

Roboseyo said...

Oh, I never said they weren't. . . but I'm their target demographic, so they're giving me what (they think) I want; whereas with sassy girl, they're (trying to) give women what they want instead. . . it'd probably be an interesting study to find the difference between Korean women's reaction to My Sassy Girl (which was also a big hit in other parts of asia) and women from other cultures' reactions.

Liz said...

I'm a woman and I saw this on DVD. I found the entire movie jejune and most definitely not worthy of all the hype and praise.

the Korean said...

ok, I actually managed to see the American trailer without throwing up. And now I don't understand what made MSG so bad compared to, say, Good Luck Chuck. Maybe the movie just needed Jessica Alba, a hot girl who can carry the whole movie through her sheer hotness.

ZenKimchi said...

Whatever. Liked the movie. Don't care.

Roboseyo said...

So YOU'RE the one!

thegrandnarrative said...

To understand its popularity in Korea, you have to place it in the social context in which it was made.

Prior to the IMF Crisis in 1997, tough guy and/or protectors and breadwinners were the dominant image of men in Korean popular culture, but within the space of a short few years images of weak and/or feminized men were popular, as was the notion of older women having romantic relationships with younger men. That's partially because the mid-1990s saw some books and movies with some quite radical depictions of the sex lives of frustrated married women, so popular notions of sexuality were already very much in flux then; partially because, for whatever reasons, similar things were happening to images of men across East Asia; and primarily I think because women were the first to be laid-off due to the IMF crisis, with government and business loudly telling the fired women that they should support their hardworking husbands or fathers who would provide for them. Coming so soon after democratization too, during which women put aside feminist concerns for the greater good of that movement, with the expectation that women's equality would ensue upon its success...then women were mightily pissed off.

My own take on the movie and things like it then, it that it was popular because it was so antithetical to the image of men that had, well, betrayed them so but which was still being promoted. But there were still strict limits on how much Korean men were prepared to be the butt of women's jokes as part of expressions of that anger - in the world cup the next year Japanese women were criticized for publicly admiring foreign players bodies for instance, while Korean women had to reserve their own just for the Korean players - and so any movies that poked fun at older groups of men may have come across some pretty adverse reaction from them, if indeed they were made at all. To give another example of that, Matt at Gusts of Popular Feeling convincingly argues that an SES music video of 2002 which had Western men in chains being attacked by dogs and so on was really targeting Korean men, but which probably wouldn't have been allowed if it had them in it instead.

thegrandnarrative said...

So I might add that, on the surface, it is indeed a crap model of femininity and relationships to be foisted onto Western audiences, but in terms of advancing Korean feminism and pushing the boundaries here, it was really quite radical for Korea.

Roboseyo said...

thanks for providing some of the context I dodged in my write-up, James:

In the original post, I wrote,

"I don't have enough sociological background to explore that in depth, but I can understand the movie's existence, from that perspective"

and you have supplied a bit of the background I, in my laziness, referenced, but ultimately shirked.

thegrandnarrative said...

You're welcome! :)

the Korean said...

But Grand, what of all the American women I met (and get emails from) who flippin' LOVE that movie?

William George said...

There's another movie that sets an even WORSE pattern for young women's behaviour in Korean society. . .

It's OldBoy, right?

Being so doting upon an absent father that you have to have sex with him when you do see him.

Makes sense.

Chris said...

i haven't heard anyone use "heavens to betsy" in ages! good review and comments. -Chris

Edward said...

GrandNarrative you are awsome. Don't ever change.

Someone should compile your blog posts and get you a book deal.

thegrandnarrative said...

Edward: thanks!

William George, I've only watched Old Boy once so I'm no expert, but (SPOILER) I'm pretty sure that the father and the daughter in the movie weren't aware of their relationship when they were having sex. The father discovers that much later. I'm less sure, but think that there was some hypnotic suggestion to get the daughter enter into a sexual relationship with him also. Again, unbeknown to either.

the Korean, well, what about them? The explanations I offer don't preclude anyone else in the world liking the movie, for whatever reasons. I confess, I *cough* actually liked the movie when I first saw it too(!), only realizing on the second viewing how nonsensical most of the jokes really were and their relationship as a whole.

William George said...

Yup.

But it doesn't make the movie less gross.

LDJ said...

Hey I liked My Sassy Girl Korean Version of course and I'm an African American(ish) girl. I think it was the very first thing I saw from Korea. I guess it's appeal was that it was a different type of love story, it was funny, and the story was unbelievably interesting. I would never want a friend and/or girlfriend like that, but who models their true relationships from movies anyway. Besides I'm a huge fan of the melodramatic storylines. And yes I cried (multiple times I think).

P.S. I know this post is old but I just felt like commenting

Roboseyo said...

glad you liked it, LDJ, but I'm afraid we WILL have to agree to disagree there.

have a great day, and thanks for weighing in!

Toni said...

I have not finished reading your post but had to reply because I can not agree with you more!!! This movie never struck a cord with me, unlike other Korean/Asian women.

I'm a female and hated the female in the Korean version. I felt she was no longer bordering on cute but actually criminal charges for the torture she put this guy through. It also fail to appeal to me because the woman actions was so far from the norm as well as the male. Like you said . . . "No man would watch another man be treated like such a sap for the entire duration of a movie" [Korean or otherwise]

I also thought that this was what the women wish they could do, like a release for them. Someone they wish they could be like this girl. That's where the appeal comes from . . . BTW have not seen the American version but was never interested in the Korean version so why bother.

Toni said...

@ William George & thegrandnarrative. I actually had the displeasure of watching this movie based on a 21 yr. old male nephews recommendations and all I have to say is wow. The father and daughter were separated for 15 years [thus not being able to recognize each other] and I believe he was hypnotized and she was just following along with her regular emotions.

@ Roboseyo, this would also make an interesting topic, with talk of Will Smith and Steven Spielberg doing an American remake. This movie is like My Sassy Girl but for males. Would love to hear you views . . . if it does get remade.

BTW love the site [although I've not gone through it fully, and got here by way of the Korean]

Craving Cinnabon said...

Ah I'm glad I'm not the only one that thinks this movie sucks. I just don't get it and never even bother asking my friends why they love it. I didn't know the "answer" was cause he's "dutiful". Barf.

Chas Warren said...

I'm a US male. I LOVED this movie. In US romances, a charming guy acts like a jerk for an entire movie, but the women loves him anyway, and in the final reveal, we discover that he DOES have a heart of gold, really.This was a refreshing reversal.

jay said...

So a woman is bossy and obnoxious and acts a bit non-Korean, maybe thats an American person then? Why the hell would that be interesting to a western person?

its like I tell the locals, all these new things in Korea are fun for you, theyre normal for me. Ooh Bubble Tea, or Brunch or whatnot.

How about learning some creativity or making decent art that doesnt mimic japan or the west. Then Ill ber impressed. Not only or or two movies a year.

put up or shut up, ya know