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South Korea 2008


Kim Jeong-kwon

Cha Tae-hyun
Ha Ji-won
Park Hee-sun
Park Grina
Park Ha-seon
Lee Ki-young

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Miracle of Giving Fool

aka Ba:Bo

Story: Ji-ho (Ha Ji-won) is a pianist and comes back from Europe after a few years since she still couldn't get over her stage fright. Back in her home she runs into mentally challenged Seung-ryong (Cha Tae-hyun), an old schoolfellow. Seung-ryong has the intellect of a child since he had an accident, but he still remembers well that Ji-ho never wanted to see him again as she thought that he was the one who set her piano on fire. Despite that Seung-ryong still waited for Ji-ho's return all those years. At the same time he takes care of his sister Jee-in (Park Grina) after the death of their mother. Even though he earns money for his sister at a snack bar day after day Jee-in is ashamed of her brother. Only his friend Sang-soo (Park Hee-sun) takes care of him.
Jin-ho is soon under the charm of Seung-ryong's childish and honest nature and although having a conversation with him can often be frustrating for her a bond of friendship forms between the two.

Review: "Miracle of Giving Fool" is a good alternative to many other Korean dramas as the film tries to be a feel good movie as well as a tearjerker. Latter one isn't achieved by a sledgehammer method, luckily. It's unfortunate circumstances that lead to the inevitable dramatic ending, not a fatal illness. The only person that ends up in hospital leaves it healthy again. Nevertheless, this movie, whose Korean title is translated as "Idiot", has a big problem concerning its plot because there is too little happening over a too large amount of time. The drama works out thanks to the relationship between Ji-ho and Seung-ryong which is everything but your typical love story. A love between man and woman isn't even possible since Seung-ryong is just a child. Compared with that his love is purer and more honest, though. Ji-ho will never be able to love him as much as he loves her, but she nonetheless soon has feelings for him. Therefore, it can be said that the drama is mainly working out thanks to Cha Tae-hyun's acting achievements.

Always smiling despite all the malice and falshehood in the world. That's most likely what distinguishes an idiot from anyone else. Seung-ryong really doesn't know anything about the problems in the world, but he surely knows what he needs to do in order to protect his family and friends. The level of self-sacrifice with which he takes care of his sister although he doesn't even get any gratefulness for it but is even detested by her is heartwarming and the way he laughs is in fact contagious since it reminds us of a child's pure laughter. You can't be envious of Seung-ryong about his fate but if you put yourself in his shoes you will realize that he is actually leading a happier life than most people. He enjoys the big and small things in life. Of course this is because he can't understand most of the evil things in the world and therefore is blind for them. Cha Tae-hyun ("My Sassy Girl") is probably delivering his best acting achievement to date and can instantly get us interested in his character.

Cha may be pushing the other actors to the wayside with his charismatic portrayal at any point in time, but they still manage to add to the film as well. However, Ha Ji-won ("Closer to Heaven", "Love so Divine") can actually show only little of her skills. She is radiating her charm as we are used to see from her, but her role is left a bit empty by the scriptwriter and thus Ha seems unchallenged. Park Hee-soon ("A Family") on the other hand can create an interesting character, though. He works at a café that is actually a brothel and even though he makes a gloomy face most of the time he has a good heart since some of his friend Seung-ryong's pureness rubs off on him. Seung-ryong's sister, played by Park Grina, can also be convincing acting-wise later on, although the screenplay is way too inconsiderate when it comes to building up her character. That is because most of the time she is simply annoying since she is outright loathing her brother despite his care for her.

However, there are also some problems in respect to the story. Sang-soo has a small side plot involving a daughter of joy that is somehow feeling out of place. It apparently is only part of the movie in order to bring the drama into movie at the end. That's one of those parts where the ineptness of the scriptwriter stands out the most. The story of the film is based on a web comic by Kang Pool and so it seems as if the filmmakers were relying on the fact that they wouldn't have to invest that much work into writing a screenplay for the adaption. You can see proof for that in the development of the characters which is almost non-existent and the actors being unchallenged by their roles. As already said, only Cha Tae-hyun is making use of this opportunty to play a completely different character from what we usually see from him and therefore he carries the film almost single-handedly. Without him "Miracle of Giving Fool" would have worked out even less. That's a pity as Ha Ji-won's character and her stage fright should have been given more room in the movie.

In the end, many of the story snippets are brought into the film in an inadequate manner. Eventually, there are even important questions left unanswered! What about the gangster who wants to get a piece of Sang-soo? Is he just giving up? The heartwarming ending isn't really working if you have to start thinking about the plot holes. Director Kim Jeong-kwon, whose debut was "Ditto" and who also shot "A Man Who Went to Mars", proves that on a technical level he is playing in the top division and that would make "Miracle of Giving Fool" actually a good movie if it weren't for the problematic script. Cha Tae-hyun nonetheless makes the movie touching when it should be. But sadly not that intensively as it would have been possible. Therefore, despite its feel good atmosphere this drama remains a movie that falls short of what it could have achieved. Still, a pleasant alternative to your usual tearjerker.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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