Jeong-in looks like one of the most insufferable heroines I have encountered in recent romantic comedies. A woman of brutal honesty, she always find something to complain and criticize, and then she drives others to the corner with her words as relentless as “The Raid: Redemption”(2011). While watching the first 20 minutes of the movie, I seriously doubted whether I could spend no more than 10 minutes with her in the car.
Fortunately, “All About My Wife”, a new South Korean romantic comedy released in South Korea on this weekend, handles this character well to draw lots of laughs from the audiences and me. It is a little shame that the comic energy it has built during the hilarious first half is considerably decreased when the circumstance surrounding the characters becomes more serious as the genre convention requires, but the film remained buoyed by the fun performances and good comic moments, and the movie is more enjoyable than I thought on the whole.
When Jeong-in’s husband Doo-hyeon(Lee Seon-gyoon) came across Jeong-in in the Meet Cute moment accompanied with earthquake in Nagoya, Japan, he had no idea about how annoying she could be at times. Though she is little neurotic, she is pretty and plucky, and there is a funny moment when they speak with each other in Japanese even though they can speak Korean instead. The relationship was quickly formed between them, and, after several months, they married.
Seven years later, Doo-heyon is far from being happy. Though his wife is a wonderful housewife in case of cooking(I really want to be invited to the dinner prepared by her!), the daily life with Jeong-in is hell on earth due to Doo-hyeon right from early morning. She rarely stops her perpetual talking whenever there is a chance to talk about something, and he is sick of tolerating this negative side of hers. The divorce may be a good option, but he doesn’t dare to mention it in front of his domineering wife. He attempts to make her dislike her, but he miserably fails while having a good sex at the kitchen. He tries to get away from his wife by requesting the transfer to the office in the city outside Seoul, but, what do you know, he finds his wife already arriving at his place when he is about to taste the first day of his freedom without his wife.
But, on one day, he discovers a very good chance to attain his goal. He comes to know that his neighbour is an infamous ladykiller who captured and then broke the hearts of the women all over the world. His name is Seong-gi(Ryoo Seung-yong), and he now has little interest in seducing women after so many conquests in his past, but he sees Jeong-in as the challenging task to finish off his legendary record as the South Korean Casanova when Doo-hyeon desperately asks him to seduce his wife and make her leave Doo-hyeon.
What they scheme together is not nice at all, but the movie finds the considerable amount of humor and laugh from their vulgar plan not far from “The Taming of the Shrew”. Like other memorable seducers in literatures, Seong-gi approaches to his target with honesty. While hiding no secret about himself, he deliberately induces her to spend more time with him based on the knowledge given to him by Doo-hyeon, so Jeong-in is drawn to the man with many marvelous talents including massaging the nipples of a milk cow expertly before milking it(he calls it “finger ballet”), so we get a hilarious imitation of that famous scene from “Ghost”(1990) in the pen.
While watching such a fantastic seducer like Seong-gi, you may wonder who Seong-gi really is. The movie treats him like sort of a fantasy character while not delving much into his past(we only know his real occupation and his true love lost long time ago), but he becomes a character with flesh and blood thanks to Ryoo Seung-yong’s lively performance with humorous bravado. Ryoo Seung-yong had a memorable year with his two intense dramatic performances in “The Front Line”(2011) and “War of the Arrows”(2011), and now he shows that he is also a good comic actor. While I do not believe he can be voted as the sexiest men in the world, I can believe his character exudes the irresistible power on the women including Jeong-in. What kind of woman can possibly deny the sweet and caring words from this sophisticated guy, anyway?
Im Soo-jeong’s performance is also convincing in making the seduction in the story work. Her mind still rarely stops finding something to complain, but her heart is mellowed by Seong-gi’s approach, and she gradually reveals a better part of her nature to the people surrounding him. Although I do not believe well that her caustic appearance in the local radio show, orchestrated by Doo-hyeon as the part of the plan, can lead to her national popularity, Im Soo-jeong is charming enough to make it believable, and I came to like her character more than before. As the hapless guy between these two characters, Lee Seon-gyoon is also funny, especially when, to his horror, his wife manages to come to the company party despite his deliberate sabotage and then embarrasses him like a bull in the china shop.
I loved its quick pace, which is always important for comedy, and the abundance of humor during the first act, but the movie ultimately gets the third-act problem which many other rom-coms suffered from before. I must say it was a bit disappointing to see the story becoming mellower when the characters find real feelings inside them. The movie begins to drag around that point, and, while not finding satisfactory finale, the movie lets the characters off the hook too easily in its half-baked ending. But the good performances prevail over the flaws, and I and the other audiences appreciated its diligent delivery of comedy. It is surely generic, but it tries, and it has more successes than failures.
Sidenote: The movie is a remake version of Argentine movie “A Boyfriend for My Wife”(2008).