"Singles" is a thoroughly enjoyable, four-hander relationship comedy with a marquee cast in top form. Pic's novelty value with local auds won't translate into many territories outside the Far East, making this more of interest to Asiaphile events in the West where thesps will strike more of a chord.

One of this summer’s homegrown hits in South Korea, “Singles” is a thoroughly enjoyable, four-hander relationship comedy with a marquee cast in top form. Pic’s novelty value with local auds won’t translate into many territories outside the Far East, making this more of interest to Asiaphile events in the West where thesps will strike more of a chord. But on its own terms, this is slick, sassy entertainment, free of the usual Korean meller additives.

Film is based on a novel by Japanese writer Toshio Kamata, which was in turn adapted into a successful Nipponese TV series. Though South Korea has produced more than its fair share of romantic comedies, “Singles” is being touted as the industry’s first stab at the modern relationship genre that first bloomed Stateside back in the ’80s.

Much of the magic of the movie is in the casting. Jang Jin-yeong, an actress previously known for quieter roles (“The Foul King,” “Sorum”), takes on an unruly Louise Brooks bob and a kooky personality as Na Nan, a 29-year-old marketing employee who’s first dumped by her b.f. and then “relocated” by her company.

Nan’s best friend, the oversexed Lee Dong-mi (Eom Jeong-hwa), simultaneously walks out on her job after being humiliated by — and then humiliating — her macho boss. Dong-mi rooms platonically with Jeong Jun (Lee Beom-su, from “Bungee Jumping of Their Own”), who also runs into problems with his g.f.

Enter Park Su-heon (Kim Ju-hyeok), a securities broker with a twinkle in his eye, who slowly courts Nan while she decides whether she’s really attracted to him or just desperate to snag a man before she hits 30. Meanwhile, Dong-mi and Jun also have to sort out whether their perpetual bickering hides a deeper attraction.

There’s nothing especially novel about the basic plot and relationships, which plumb no special depths, but the cast melds so well that, apart from an overextended final reel, the running time slides by in a succession of small incidents that maintain a frothy appeal.

With her effervescent, ingenuous goofiness, Jang dominates the movie, and twins well with Eom (so good in last year’s “Marriage Is a Crazy Thing”) as the full-on, mouthy Dong-mi.

In what is basically a women’s picture, the men are lower key, with both Kim and the more experienced Lee astutely playing second fiddle. Helmer Gweon Chil-in, in only his second feature after the 1995 “A Good Day to Fall in Love,” puts together a smooth, technically good-looking package.

Singles

South Korea

Production

A Big Blue release of a UniKorea, Dream Venture Capital presentation, in association with KTB Network, Bear Entertainment, iPictures and OCN, of a Sidus production, in association with Sunik Films. (International sales: Cinema Service, Seoul.) Produced by Cha Sung-jae, Romeo Noh. Executive producer, Choi Seong-min. Co-producer, Im Chung-yeol. Directed by Gweon Chil-in. Screenplay, Park Heon-su, Roh Hae-yeong, Seong Gi-yeong; story, Toshio Kamata.

Crew

Camera (color), Kim Jae-ho; editor, Shin Min-gyeong; music, Jo Seong-woo, Kim Jun-suk; art director, Lee Jin-ho; costume designer, Kim Jae-ah; sound (Dolby Digital), Live Tone. Reviewed at CineAll 5, Bucheon, South Korea, July 15, 2003. Running time: 107 MIN.

With

Jang Jin-yeong, Lee Beom-su, Eom Jeong-hwa, Kim Ju-hyeok.
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