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Original Title:
Oldeumiseu Daieori geukjang-pan

South Korea 2006

Comedy, Romance

Kim Seok-yun

Ye Ji-won
Ji Hyun-woo
Kim Yeong-ok
Seo Seung-hyeon
Kim Hye-ok
Woo Hyeon
Im Hyeon-sik
Park Woong
Jo Yeon-woo
Son Yeong-soon
Jang Dae-seong
Jeong Mi-seong
Oh Yoon-ah
Kim Ji-young
Kim Jung-min
Jang Dong-jik

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Old Miss Diary

Story: Mi-ja (Ye Ji-won) is 32 years old, single, without a job and lives at her grandmothers. And she herself doesn't know why she is such a lost cause. However, suddenly she gets a job as a dubbing artist for a horror movie. Also taking part in the project is her past heartthrob, who did reject her unceremoniously and ridiculed her in front of all her colleagues. But Mi-ja's interest is now revolving around the young and very cold producer Ji Hyun-woo (Ji Hyun-woo), who couldn't be less interested in Mi-ja.
Yet, not only Mi-ja has to struggle with love and all the embarrassment you are willing to undertake to experience it, but her grandmother and her grandmother's two sisters, too, as they are trying, before their inevitable demise, to once more taste the sweetness of love. Things get more complicated, though, when one of the male relatives, who is also living at the grandmother's place, is thinking of robbing a bank.

Review: When you are female, unmarried and over 30 in Korea, then you really have the short end of the stick. In the TV-show "My Name is Kim Sam-soon" this topic has already been dealt with a little in a very humorous way, but apart from that there was also another, maybe not equally popular, but also very successful show with the title "Old Miss Diary". This is a 2-hours movie adaption of the show with the same actors and producers at work. Fortunately, you don't need any background knowledge, and thanks to actress Ye Ji-won and the wacky off-beat humor you will soon get drawn into the film. The movie plays with the fact that Mi-ja isn't your typical Korean beauty coming right from under a plastic surgeon's knife, who tries to catch a man with a big wallet by using her learnt coquetting skills, but is a woman with her own particular character traits and kinkiness. Therefore, there is an individual in the movie's focus, that feels real and is charismatic in its own natural way, which makes it very easy to cry and laugh along with her.

Mainly, though, there is a lot to laugh about. The humor is by far the greatest strength of "Old Miss Diary", because there is fantastic situational comedy scattered troughout the movie and even some slapstick moments, in which we want in Mi-ja's place to be swallowed up by the earth out of embarrassment, never come across poorly. In fact some scenes even made me laugh out loud, which is something very rare to be seen, and therefore proves how unpredictable this movie is. That is mainly thanks to the fact that director Kim Seok-yun works a lot with Mi-ja's dream sequences in which in sometimes very brutal and bloody ways she imagines how she would react if she weren't such a "nice" person. Doing so the director uses the opportunity to poke fun at other genre, too. There is also an homage to Sadako, the long-haired girl from "The Ring", because it just happens to be a movie such as this which Mi-ja is dubbing at that moment. The timing of the jokes is as good as is Ye Ji-won's off-beat charisma.

Conformity of young women in Korean society is criticized in a humerous way, as well as the older generation, which in the shape of the three grandmothers shows that they are still up to every trick and in a word duel with a mafia thug would stand a good chance to win. However, when it comes to the three old ladies there is also a serious problem, because this side-story thread is too distracting from the actual story and is almost not connected with it in any way. The same goes for the superfluously thrown in bank robbing. Granted, it's really funny, but you somehow get the feeling that the filmmakers wanted to put too much into "Old Miss Diary", and then got aware that all these subplots may fit well into a TV series, since we have the appropriate framework there, which is big enough for such undertakings, but not in an abridged movie. Therefore, this leads to the dilemma, that the film especially towards the end becomes a bit confusing.

Technically, there are some fine add-ons that will catch the viewer's eye. For example, there is the scene in which we see the different stages of Mi-ja's sorry love stories in front of her house in one single picture. You can also find some inventiveness concerning the fading from one scene to another.
At the end, everything has to turn for the more dramatic, but the movie never goes overboard and additionally even manages to, and that is something I have to give it special credit for, still cause one or two good laughs, even if ultimately the comedy heads to a trivial and conciliatory happy end. But I suppose that's better than doing a complete U-turn like most Korean movies are known to do nowadays. But what did we expect? This is, after all, a comedy and it should be brought to a conclusion in a way fitting to that fact. Even if this means that originality falls by the wayside, eventually.

Inventiveness, is something, though, that you can find on a technical level, e.g. when it comes to Mi-ja's dream sequences or concerning her character in general. Ye Ji-won ("So Cute") succeeds in creating a very distinct loveable on-screen charisma, which makes her a natural beauty. Her partner Ji Hyun-woo, however, remains too cold and reserved, so that at best we can imagine that there might be a little bit more behind his character than we get to see.
The story revolving around the three old ladies oftentimes feels out of place, even though it's also funny in its own right and sometimes is almost profound. But it simply pulls you out of the actual story and gives the movie something episode-like. This and the resulting lack of focus bestows a bitter aftertaste to "Old Miss Diary", which is even the more a pity as director Kim Seok-yun can finally bring some fresh ideas to the hackneyed rom-com genre of today. Anyway, because of it's good humor a recommendation is almost obligative. I for my part am interested in the TV-series now!

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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