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Original Title:
Yeopgijeogin geunyeo

South Korea 2001

Comedy, Romance, Drama

Kwak Jae-young

Jeon Ji-hyun
Cha Tae-hyun
Han Jin-hie
Hyun Sook-hee
Kim In-mun
Kim Il-woo
Song Wok-suk
Yang Geum-Seok

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My Sassy Girl

Story: Kyun-woo (Cha Tae-hyun) is a student and lives for the moment without wasting any thoughts about his future. However, his life turns upside down when he saves a drunk girl (Jeon Ji-hyun) at a train station. When she throws up in the train and shortly before losing her consciousness calls Kyun-woo something like "honey", he himself has no other choice but to take care of her, since now the other passengers think of him as the girl's boyfriend. He gets her into a hotel and decides to cure the girl from her obvious deep sorrow. But several incidents lead to the unhappy situation that he ends up in jail...
The next day the girl wants to meet with Kyun-woo. Soon the two become friends, or at least something similar to that... Kyun-woo has to endure lots of physical and mental torment. With her aggressive, furious and wacky nature his friend brings him into the most unpleasent situations, attacks him in public, hits him or just commands him every time she feels like it. He isn't even allowed to decide on his own what to drink!
Nonetheless, the two spent a crazy, but nice time together. But what if Kyun-woo succeeds in freeing her from her sorrow? Will their uncommon relationship just end like that?

Review: Where to begin with when it comes to a movie that managed to make even me a little bit more open minded towards romantic comedies? "My Sassy Girl" is a classic of its genre, has often been copied, but no one could ever attain the same level of quality again. So why is this movie so successful? It's simple. There are no cliche-like characters, no overdone melodramatics or any other stereotypes. On the contrary, the movie manages with ease to mix several genres in a non-apparent way. Nevertheless, the movie would have been only half as good if it weren't for the two main actors who imbue their characters and the story with so much charm, that you just have to become fond of them. Nowadays, the extreme, wacky and powerful girl, as well as her enslaved, loveable and devoted boyfriend have become two archetypes, that can be found in almost every other Korean romantic comedy. Aside from the fact that "My Sassy Girl" is the original that made way for so many clones, which you should keep in mind if you have already seen later movies of this kind, no one ever managed to create such a great chemistry between two main actors in a romantic comedy on screen ever again.

The first half of the movie, which is chapter-like even titled as the "first half", the film introduces the two main characters to us. This proves to be very amusing for the viewer, because already the first scene between the two in the subway in which the girl throws up all over one of the other passengers has written movie history. Kyun-woo's face which is twisted with disgust is also unforgettable. But no need to worry, the humour is not on a low-level toilet-niveau, yet in fact it is on a very cosmopolitan level (meaning that you don't need to have studied Korean culture to get the jokes). Situational comedy and the acting of the two main actors make this movie so outstandingly funny.

When Kyun-woo and the girl, which interestingly enough has no name the whole film through (!), finally become friends, then this is the beginning of lots of crazy, cheeful and comical situations. At the latest, when Kyun-woo orders something in a Fast-Food-Restaurant and his girlfriend looks at him as if she is going to kill him any moment and with the words "Wanna die?!" calls on him to order a coffee like she is, we know that this is one hell of an extraordinary movie.
The list of wacky and humerous scenes is nearly endless. Kyun-woo has to deal with a "girlfriend" that hits him, is attacked by her in public, for example when he has to wear her high heel shoes or there are lots of other occasions he just has to dance to her bidding.

The two main actors are very well casted. The whole movie, apart from some unimportant supporting actors, actually just deals with them and the two manage with seemingly no effort to back up the movie completely on their own. Jeon Ji-hyun, who is incredibly loveable with her barefaced, wacky and a little bit aggressive nature, deserves a whole bunch of credit. Her attributes and the word "loveable" may sound like a contradiction, but if you have seen her in action you will know what I'm talking about. Nevertheless, sometimes she can also act quite friendly, but only if she wants to, of course. With her great range of facial expressions she gets everything out of her role that there is and even the more serious, melodramatic scenes she masters perfectly. Her portrayel is so multi-layered that the observant viewer can make out that under her wacky surface she just wants to hide her vulnerability and the sorrow of a previous relationship.
Cha Tae-huyn's role as the amenable, nice guy, who made it his businesss to heal his friend from her grieving is also very well executed. For this he endures the worst physical and psychological pains, even though it remains very amusing for the viewer, nonetheless.

With his debut work director Kwak Jae-young proves that he knows how to make interesting and good movies. He creates a love story which is free of any cliches and at one point even makes fun of overdone melodramatics. Therefore it's no wonder, that this romance is refreshingly different and delivers some excellent jokes along the way. Moreover, Kwak put much effort into the film so that the end product also feels very realistic on an emotional level.
Technically, there is really nothing to criticize. The colourful world we get shown here causes a certain cheerfulness in us and additionally even the music is used very well. The one really impressive achievement of the movie is the way several genres are blent together. Apart from the comedy and the romance, there is also the somewhat dramatic finale, which was titled "Overtime" by the director, which works out very believable. However, this is not only some sort of a bonus, which somehow doesn't fit into the rest, because it all suddenly shifts to the melodramatic, but instead this way we get presented a good resolving of the events, even though it becomes a bit more serious than what we were used to of the cheerful underlying feeling of the rest of the movie. Nevertheless, it works out astonishingly well in the end, since this more serious undertone doesn't just kick in, but in retrospective has been there on a subtle level all the time.

Furthermore, the director also successfully experiments with other genres. Kyun-woo has to read lots of his girlfriend's "movie scripts" and they somehow always feature a female main protagonist who fights a whole bunch of bad guys in best "Matrix"-manner or in good old Wuxia-style. These little films within a film represent a nice change, keep us interested and show us that Kwak knows how the deal with a lot of genres.

"My Sassy Girl" is in its own way a masterpiece of Korean cinema. Two incredibly charming actors, a nice story, which is based on the true internet story of Kim Ho-sik and a lot of humour, that always hits the mark make this film a must-see. Only a small pacing problem in the middle of the movie and the fact that the running time of 140 minutes (in the Director's Cut version) is a bit too long, make this technically top movie miss the highest possible rating by inches.
A film no one should miss and which can make even opposers of romantic comedies acknowledgingly give it a thumbs up!

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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