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Original Title:
Yasuwa minyeo

South Korea 2005

Romance, Comedy

Lee Gye-byeok

Shin Min-a
Ryu Seung-beom
Kim Kang-woo
Ahn Sang-tae

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The Beast and the Beauty

Story: Jang Hae-ju (Shin Min-a) is blind. Because she mistakes Ku Dong-geon (Ryu Seung-beom) for a taxi-driver, she gets into his car. From this time on, Dong-geon drives the blind Hae-ju to work and back home again. The two become friends and a relationship is starting to evolve. To Hae-ju, Dong-geon is now like a new pair of eyes, as he shows her a completely new and wonderful world. But one day Hae-ju finally finds a donor and undergoes eye surgery. Dong-geon on the other hand isn't very happy about this, as he actually isn't the good-looking man he described to his friend. On his first encounter with Hae-ju and her family in hospital, they are all shocked by his looks and Dong-geon immediately pretends to be somebody else. Dong-geon goes to a plastic surgeon who is supposed to remove the scar on his face. As all this takes about two weeks, he tells his friend that he has to work on a dubbing job for a show in Hawaii.
Meanwhile Hae-ju meets officer Tak Jun-ha (Kim Kang-woo) whom she at first accidentally mistakes as her friend Dong-geon. Dong-geon has to watch how Jun-ha starts to throw himself at Hae-ju, but at some point he doesn't try to stop him anymore. Maybe it's better if Hae-ju gets happy with Jun-ha. What could she possibly see in such an ugly guy as Dong-geon...

Review: : A pretty familiar plot, but still a nice basic idea, two charismatic actors, some good laughs, in short: insignificant light entertainment which might as well sweeten your evening - It's time for rom-com! This time it's all about the typical "Beauty and the Beast" premise, but fortunately the movie's title is not the only alternation to the story. "The Beast and the Beauty" is pretty predictable from start to finish, nevertheless it has some rather nice ideas and is not as cheesy as you might expect. And more than anything else it can give you a nice laugh or two.

The movie shows us how much illusion there actually is to perception. Dong-geon creates some kind of paradise for his friend Hae-ju, but when she regains her sight, this beautiful world collapses. Well, at least it does for Dong-geon, because after all this isn't a drama, but a feel-good romantic comedy. Dong-geon is not the best looking guy around and thus starts to hide from his friend. But it doesn't take long and he gets some competition in shape of an old schoolmate, officer Jun-ha. What an irony, that it is exactly this man's face which he picked to describe himself to Hae-ju. But as a typical Korean romantic movie, there are a lot of these coincidences and twists of fate, of course. If you are somebody who is familiar with this genre, then you won't be annoyed anymore by how constructed this story seems. At the end Dong-geon leaves his friend because he thinks it would be best for her, Jun-ha surprisingly turns out to be quite a friend in need, and Hae-ju and Dong-geon finally find their way back together again. Everybody who doesn't mind seeing it coming right after the movie's first ten minutes will have a nice time.

In fact "The Beast and the Beauty" has some nice jokes to offer. Dong-geon has to deal with some kind of wanna-be criminal who wants to help him getting rid of Jun-ha, because it was this officer who put the rest of his gang behind bars. But it turns out that the criminal is a real moron and is only making it even harder for poor Dong-geon. Apart from his really funny dialogues, you also have to laugh at him trying to cut off Jun-ha over and over again so that he wouldn't be able to meet Hae-ju. And he does this in the most ridiculous ways. In other words, the situational comedy is pretty good and one little highlight is the scene in which Hae-ju finds out who Dong-geon really is. With lined-up flashbacks, split screens and the original music, we get a rather good reference to Oldboy's shocking resolution, and suddenly even Dong-geon's strange way to disguise himself is starting to fit into the overall picture. Coincidence? I don't think so, because after all director Lee Gye-byeok himself was the assistant of director Park Chan-wook on "Oldboy"...

Sometimes you think that the movie might take a turn for drama, as we're unfortunately used to see from late Korean movies, but this time the director only leads us up the garden path. In the dramatic scene in which Jun-ha gets stabbed by the rather stupid criminal from the gangster gang, the murder weapon turns out to be just a fake knife and therefore right from the beginning its quite obvious for us that we're "only" served with light-hearted and happy entertainment. But sometimes, that's all you need.

Ryu Seung-beom ("Arahan") in the leading role gives a great performance and Shin Min-a ("Madeleine") has just the innocent charisma to match. Unfortunately she's not allowed to show us what she is, without a doubt, capable of doing, acting-wise. Her character is just too cliché-driven, but then again, it doesn't really spoil the movie.
Interestingly enough, the romantic tale works out pretty good, even though the two are separated during almost the entire movie. But this is probably also due to the supporting roles that are adding to the film's overall quality. By the way, in a tiny supporting role you can admire Kim In-soon as the Jazz Bar Singer.

In some scenes the movie even makes fun of the plot's own predictability, for instance as Dong-geon re-enacts "The Beauty and the Beast" with dolls. But in fact that doesn't make the movie anything like groundbreaking either. Director Lee Gye-byeok can only show us with some sense of humor that he was well aware of the movie's weaknesses and just tried to make the best of it.
Again, the ending is a bit cheesy, but thanks to the humor and two charismatic characters, we are willing to look past that. Everybody who has no problem with a bit of mind candy will have a nice time. Even though "The Beast and the Beauty" is definitely better than many other Rom-Coms and despite all its good entertainment value, it's still just fast-food: You always love having it, but once in a while you should make sure to have a real good meal, too.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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