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Original Title:
Misseu Hongdangmu

South Korea 2008

Comedy, Drama

Lee Kyoung-mi

Kong Hyo-jin
Seo Woo
Lee Jong-hyeok
Hwang Woo-seul-hye
Bang Eun-jin
Bae Seong-woo
Lee Da-eun
Seo Bo-ik
Bong Joon-ho

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Crush and Blush

Story: Yang Mi-sook (Kong Hyo-jin) is a teacher and in love with her colleague and former teacher Seo Jong-cheol (Lee Jong-hyeok). For years already she is following him whereever he goes and is looking for an opportunity to win him over. When she hears that her good-looking female colleague and roommate Lee Yu-ri (Hwang Woo-seul-hye) is having an affair with him, she is putting all her effort into ending it. Because of this affair it is said that Jong-cheol's wife (Bang Eun-jin) wants a divorce, but Mi-sook can't let that happen. She has to avert the divorce so that the relationship with Yu-ri comes to an end. Only after that Mi-sook can further pursue her goal of winning him over for herself. The teacher gets help from Seo Jong-hee (Seo Woo), the daughter of Jong-cheol. Jong-hee is a student at the school Mi-sook is working at, very unpopular and branded a loser, as is Mi-sook. But together the two have the strength to try to nip the family tragedy in the bud and maybe save the marriage of Jong-cheol. Between student and teacher a friendship evolves. However, Jong-hee doesn't know that Mi-sook is in love with her father.

Review: There are moments in a film critic's life where he has to ask himself if he really has such a different understanding of what a good movie has to be like so that he can't agree with the opinion of other critics in the slightest. "Crush and Blush" is bringing exactly this problem to the table. That is because most critics praise the movie for its peculiarities, its humor and the great characters. And even though I really like watching movies that show the courage to bring their peculiarities to the foreground, I have to admit that I absolutely didn't like them here. First and foremost that is because the actions of the different individuals aren't plausible at all, the script is standing out because of a striking artificiality and the dialogues are just odd most of the time. Yes, the whole movies is strange and by far not in any possible positive sense. It would be best to simply forget having seen it as soon as possible. There is an awkward aftertaste staying with you which you just want to get rid of. Or maybe this comedy is just a matter of taste, anyway?

Although this might just be a subjective opinion, the review following naturally shouldn't be built on that. Which is why I will now present the "objetive" reasons why "Crush and Blush" is a problematic or simply not a good movie at all.
It starts with the strange structure of the film and the introduction of the characters. It's obvious which kind of character Mi-sook is supposed to depict. She is the misfit who has been a loser all her life and in a way has accepted that fact. At the same time she is fighting for her love even if it might merely be an idealized or fancied one. She is someone the viewer should be able to sympathize with from the get-go and yet she also has her more dark sides, lies to and betrays other people, even her friend, when it helps winning Jong-cheol over. The ambiguity of her character is an interesting aspect of the film, but it simply doesn't work. Mi-sook simply remains too knocked up as a character and implausible.

Kong Hyo-jin ("Heaven's Soldiers", "M") is not your typical beauty and tries to imbue her role with as much charm as possible. It's not really the actors who are to blame that the viewer can't find into the film but the poorly written script. Especially in the last third when everything is pointing at a dramatic finale tears are flowing like waterfalls and you don't really know what to think of it as it just seems so ridiculous. Probably those scenes aren't to be taken serious in any way but are supposed to be funny. Nevertheless, in the end they merely give the audience an alienating feeling and moreover unnecessarily drag on forever. Only Seo Woo ("Paju", "My Son") can be more easily accessable thanks to her vivid and natural nature. It's just that it's utterly improbable that a girl with her looks is really unpopular at a school.

If there is something in "Crush and Blush" that can serve as some kind of sheet anchor for the viewer then the unusual friendship between teacher and student comes closest to it. Sadly, even here there are numerous inconsistencies. Main reason for this problem are the countless emotional blackouts or attacks that are motivated by nothing to begin with. Even antagonistic characters suddenly fall into each other's arms and the audience doesn't know if there is something he might have missed along the way. The individual characters never act in a credible manner. That doesn't mean that they should act normal or anything since the movie is aiming at illuminating unusual characters, but even they have to act within the framework of their personality. But what these personalities are actually composed of is never answered in a satisfying fashion. If you then get to understand that no one less than Park Chan-wook ("Oldboy", "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance") wrote on the screenplay as well, it's even less comprehensible how the film could have so many deficits in this field.

As a comedy imbued with black humor "Crush and Blush" fails as it does as a character portrait. You might somehow make out in which direction the film actually wanted to go, but that makes things even worse. The gags, which are also of erotic content during the online chats, don't work out and the anti-hero factor couldn't be realized appropriately with Mi-sook either. As a romantic comedy of a somewhat different nature this movie can merely alienate and can't move at all, even though this might have been its intention in certain moments.
Since my opinion about "Crush and Blush" differentiates sometimes greatly from those of other critics I naturally have to consider that I simply missed something essential here. Therefore, I recommend that you read some other opinions as well or that you just heed my advice and avoid this movie.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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