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How to Use Guys with Secret Tips - Movie Poster
Original Title:

South Korea 2013

Romance, Comedy

Lee Won-seok

Lee Si-young
Oh Jeong-se
Hwang In-yeong
Park Yeong-gyoo
Lee Won-jong
Kim Jeong-tae
Bae Seong-woo

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How to Use Guys with Secret Tips

aka Men's Manual

Story: Choi Bo-na (Lee Si-young) is second assisstant director for five years now and she doesn't get anywhere in her job. This is also because of her boss, a director who can't find an audience with his avant-garde ideas for quite a while already. However, one day he is allowed to shoot a commercial with superstar Lee Seung-jae (Oh Jung-se). Bo-na gets off on the wrong foot with him the moment they meet because of her cranky nature. She suddenly finds herself alone at a beach after dozing off during one of the shoots and passes a strange sales stall at which the self-proclaimed guru Dr. Swarski (Park Yeong-gyu) sells her a video manual of how to hold her ground in a world dominated by men. At first Bo-na is sceptical, but after she has lost the original material of the shooting and has to get Seung-jae for a reshooting she gives it a try. She gets rid of her insecure self and attacks men with the subtle weapons of a woman. Soon she sees the first fruits of her work as the superstar actually notices the second assisstant director now and even starts to have an interest in her.

Review: Every few years there are some small surprise hits in the rom-com genre. "How to Use Guys with Secret Tips" is almost such a case as it did pretty well at the Korean box office thanks to word of mouth advertisement. One of the reasons for that could be the quirky and pretty inventive directing, but looking behind the facade, and it inevitable comes to this at the end, you will be disappointed by a truely unoriginal story. Also rather disillusioning is that the characters who at first seem interesting start to lose some color towards the end. The worst part in this respect is that the chemistry between the two protagonists isn't convincing after all. The reason why you still might be able to have fun with this film is without a doubt the humor which can be quite refreshing at times.

How to Use Guys with Secret Tips - Film Screenshot 11

The keyed up nature of so many Korean rom-coms might be regarded as unpleasant by many. Drawing pictures into moving frames and writing messages with colorful pens into the picture - this all seems as if it were aimed to please a pubertal female audience. Still, this isn't such an annoying aspect of "How to Use Guys with Secret Tips" most of the time since you somehow also get the feeling that by utilizing this method for conveying information the director also makes fun of it. Furthermore, the directing might seem a bit over the top but it also fits into the framework and especially the inventiveness deserves some words of praise. If it weren't for the well-done directing, the flaws of this romantic comedy probably would have become apparent a lot sooner.

How to Use Guys with Secret Tips - Film Screenshot 12

After a while the protagonists turn out to be the archetypes we already know from movies like this. Actress Lee Si-yeong ("Wild Romance") at least delivers the most interesting portrayal. Her transformation into a more confident woman, who yet still carries a lot of insecurity within her, is quite well achieved. Oh Jeong-se (normally always playing supporting roles as in "Running Man" and "Quick") plays the cocky actor who slowly starts to unfreeze and makes a fool of himself in order to win the heart of his beloved. There aren't any surprises here, naturally there is a mandatory misunderstanding between the two as well, which forms an obstacle in the relationship and for unknown reasons isn't clarified by any of the two parties.

Particularly tragical is that the chemistry between the two protagonists constantly declines as the film progresses. There is something lacking here, even the more as Seung-jae is never really likeable. Towards the end everything becomes even extraordinarily formulaic and to make things worse you also start to be upset about a potentially innovative romantic comedy resulting in absolute meaninglessness. Additionally, some of the coincidences will make you groan in agony, and trying to convey those coincidences with a subtle wink doesn't work either. In such scenes it's solely the humor that's preventing the movie from slipping off into mediocrety. Thankfully, the director doesn't focus on working with the clichés of the differences between men and women, but he instead takes a more unconventional route.

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There is another point that's irritating. Does the movie aim at delivering a message as well? Is there an appeal for Korean women to emancipate hidden here? If that's the case the director deals with it in a way that's too subtle and moreover his intent would be especially undermined by the clichéloaden love story. Also it would be questionable why women need to achieve this by resorting to conniving means. By this they aren't any better than (Korean) men. But maybe that's already too much of an interpretation. "How to Use Guys with Secret Tip" would have had what it takes to bring a fresh breeze into the genre, but ultimately the corny love story and the predictability of it make many positive reviews of the movie seem rather unreflective.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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