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Miss Granny - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Soo-sang-han geu-nyeo

South Korea 2014


Hwang Dong-hyeok

Sim Eun-kyeong
Nah Moon-hee
Park In-hwan
Lee Jin-wook
Jin Young
Seong Dong-il
Kim Hyeon-sook
Hwang Jeong-min
Kim Seul-gi

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Miss Granny

Miss Granny - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Mal-soon (Nah Moon-hee) is 74 years old and has a tough life behind her. Her husband died even before their son saw the light of day and so she had to bring him up all on her own. Although she has been poor her son Hyeon-Cheol (Seong Dong-il) is now a professor at a university and her whole pride. She also doesn't miss a chance telling this to everyone she meets. With her very straightforward and feisty nature she is a real problem for her daughter-in-law, which is why she even suffers from a heart condition. When the daughter-in-law even needs to go to the hospital her family discusses if it wouldn't be better to take Mal-soon into a nursing home until Hyeon-cheol's wife is fine again. By chance, Mal-soon overhears the conversation and decides to go to a photo shop in order to take a picture for her funeral since she slowly realizes that she hasn't much time left. She enters a certain photo shop and the photographer promises her to make her fifty years younger. When she leaves the shop she has to find out that the photographer actually meant this literally. The now 24-year old girl (Sim Eun-kyeong) at first doesn't know what to do with her new-found youth. But she eventually calls herself Doo-ri and gets aware that she has a second chance in life. With her grandson Ji-ha (Jin Young), who doesn't know about her true identity, she now aims at becoming a musician.

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Miss Granny - Film Screenshot 4

Review: The film's premise should sound familiar. And to be honest, this kind of lighthearted entertainment seldomly can amount to anything like memorable cinema. "Miss Granny" first and foremost wants to entertain as well, yet doesn't hide its Korean identity in favor of reaching the biggest possible audience in the West, but instead makes use of it quite skillfully in order to put a very special kind of humor into the movie's focus. The humor's source is the fact that we hear a physically young woman say things that pose no problem when being said by an older person, but sound amusing or even shocking when coming from a young woman. It's laudable that the movie never runs off this track, yet the humor doesn't lose any of its originality throughout. Consequently, this flick is certainly successful as a comedy.

Miss Granny - Film Screenshot 5

Korean grannies (halmonis) are even louder and cheekier than ahjummas. They scream and hit you while demanding what they are entitled to or simply if they want something. Since Koreans are born with a great amount of respect for your elders nearly no one defends himself against the at times embarrassing or even annoying outbursts of those grannies. How embarrassing and extroverted those halmonis can actually be is made fun of excellently in "Miss Granny". After all, hearing a twenty-something year old girl say things that you have to put up with when coming from a 70-year old woman really shows you how much those grannies misbehave. It is said that when you get old you start to become a child again - meaning that you also speak the truth in a very straightforward manner. That you also might be harassing the people around you with that becomes very obvious in this comedy.

Miss Granny - Film Screenshot 6

The film's motor is Sim Eun-kyeong ("Hansel and Gretel", "Sunny"), who with her way of speaking and her body language leaves no doubt that she is an old lady imprisoned in the body of a young girl. Sim delivers an impressive perfomance and even in those scenes in which her acting could have become unintentionally funny she shows some great sense for comedic timing. Interestingly enough, her loud nature mirrors the changed picture of women in Korea, who every now and then are allowed to show a more self-confident side and for this are even adored by men. Naturally, for years already love isn't a topic to deal with for Mal-soon, maybe except of the cheesy tv dramas which she devours like every halmoni, but things ultimately change. The big question remains where the film is heading, though. From the very beginning there is the fear that "Miss Granny" won't be able to deliver anything except of trivial entertainment.

Miss Granny - Film Screenshot 7

It's difficult to claim that the movie has a message. Nonetheless, it is obvious that director Hwang Dong-hyeok ("Silenced", "My Father") wants to highlight that in its youth today's generation of grannies has sacrificed everything for its children to have a good life today. However, Mal-soon gets a second chance and can finally live her life the way she wants. Thus, she chases her dream of becoming a singer. Accordingly, "Miss Granny" also presents itself as a music flick. The songs played are mostly classic pieces from Mal-soon's youth or those that remind us of them. At the same time there is also some criticism directed at mushy and obviously cloned pop bands of modern casting shows through producer Seung-Woo. This makes the final song even the more irritating, since it actually falls into the same category as those modern run-of-the-mill hits.

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Miss Granny - Film Screenshot 10

Apart from that the music may be an important element, yet never is pushed into the foreground. Every now and then this comedy is only one step away from getting tangled up in genre clichés, but those moments are often specifically used to contrast them with Oh Doo-ri's big mouth. It's those scenes in which the movie works best. Unfortunately, there are also some tears that seem to be taken right out of a drama and also a flashback collage. Next to the humor, it also has to be pointed out positively that the characters are elaborated well, yet take up a subordinate role to Doo-ri and her story so that the focus is constantly apparent. Something modern Korean movies of the last few years struggled with. Still, eventually things turn out the way they have to. All in all this makes "Miss Granny" predictable, but it's those small unexpected responses or lines by Mal-soon/Doo-ri that make the movie's humor so special, always hitting the mark.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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