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Original Title:
Widaehan yusan

South Korea 2003

Comedy, Romance

Oh Sang-hun

Lim Chang Jung
Kim Seon-a
Shin Yi
Kim Su-mi
Kong Hyeong-jin
Cho Mi-ryeong
Hyon-Jin Sa

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Greatest Expectations

Story: Chang-shik (Lim Chang Jung) is a good-for-nothing, who is unemployed and living at the expense of his brother and his brother's wife. Moreover, he has the habit, that he always returns the movies he lends at the local video store past schedule. This is much to the dislike of video store employee Mi-yeong (Kim Seon-a) who Chang-shik oftentimes gets into a fight with. Mi-yeong, however, has her own share of problems to deal with, as her plans of becoming an actress really don't get going. Furthermore, she suspects that she is not the biological child of her mother.
The paths of Chang-shik and Mi-yeong cross again when one day they witness how an old jogger gets run over by a car. Shortly after, the two are kidnapped by the hit-and-run culprits. It seems that the perpetrators are real, even though not especially professional, gangsters. Chang-shik and Mi-yeong somehow manage to escape and go to the police, who unfortunately can't help them with their situation.
The two find out, that the dead jogger was a rich man, who was looking for his lost child, which has a special birthmark on its body. Exactly the same birthmark is also to be found on Mi-yeong's body. Chang-shik believes this to be a great opportunity to get some money out of the whole dilemma, while the gangsters are still chasing after him and Mi-yeong.

Review: The story of "Greatest Expectations" might sound entangled, but actually it isn't. Storywise there is happening a lot, but soon we realize that these events are merely sidestories. The main plot, naturally, is about the romantic relationship between the two main protagonists. It's nice to see a movie get a good plot, which however is relativized in its importance, as it's only a means to an end to get the two main characters into the most awkward situations. At least, this works out pretty well. Thanks to the little side stories the script breathes life into the movie and the numerous characters. There are quite a few romantic comedies that can still learn something from this movie.

Lim Chang Jung plays the idle, cheeky Chang-shik and he absolutely leaves no doubt about it that he had really a fun time doing so. Kim Seon-a as Mi-yeong proves that Lim isn't the only one with a talent for comedy. The chemistry between the two is just great. When they shout, insult and beat each other, then it's obvious even for the most blind among the viewers that there is a strong hate-love relationship going on between them. Of course, both of them have to find that out for themselves first. Although the love story is in the center of events we don't get bombarded with cheesy scenes. "Greatest Expectations" first and foremost is a well-done comedy flick and only after that it is a romantic movie in a subtle manner, and luckily this isn't interfering with the rest of the film at all.

The reason why the jokes are working out so well is basically thanks to the two main actors. Most of the funny moments are comical situational-wise. The way Chang-shik and Mi-yeong act and interact with or insult and get on top of each other is laugh-out-loud humour. Furthermore, you will seldomly watch a movie in which there is so much screaming and shouting going on as here. This for sure isn't the most smart and subtle kind of humour, but when Mi-yeong while eating and having a full mouth starts to jangle, then it won't be easy for you not to laugh. This kind of humour might not work with anyone, but as already said there is also enough other well-done situational comedy.

Moreover, the film can also score with good supporting actors. First of all, there is Shin Yi, who as Chang-shik's brother's assertive wife definitely wears the pants at home and on more than one occassion does a good job in terrorizing and "beating up" her two men.
Mi-yeong's mother, who being card game addicted, has the habit to tease her daughter with a story that she found her under a bridge and that she actually isn't her real mother, can also add to the audience's entertainment. It's these finely elaborated characters, their weirdness and their fits of madness, that make this comedy so worthwhile.

Director Oh Sang-hun's debut movie knows how to engage the audience with a fast pacing, a cheerful mood and good jokes. Even the more dramatic scenes work out quite well, except for one almost-raping that somehow doesn't fit into the movie.
Towards the end the pacing slows down a bit, yet you never have the feeling to be left stranded, because something is always happening. The love confession at the end is surprisingly uncheesy, as it is delivered with situational comedy at the same time.
At the bottom line we get a nice comedy with great actors, a good story, characters that are written with a keen eye for details, and really well-done jokes. As for my part, I had to laugh out loud on quite a few occassions which is somewhat of a rarity.
With its barefaced and loud style "Greatest Expectations" isn't really anything new, yet it gets the job done amazingly well. A recommendable comedy.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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