I have long heard of the very well-loved 2001 Korean film called "My Sassy Girl". But since I never really liked rom-coms, I have not seen it before. This summer though, with the release of its official sequel (yes, 15 years later!) "My New Sassy Girl", I thought this was the best time to check the original film out as well, before I watch the sequel.
MY SASSY GIRL (2001)
A homely young man Gyeon-woo saves an unnamed drunk Girl from falling into the subway track. From there begins a bizarre relationship where the Girl would swing wildly from loving to hurting Gyeon-woo, but he simply could not help but bear it all and fall in love with her. On the girl's suggestion, they leave letters in a time capsule under a tree on a hill and will meet each other again after two years. On that set day, confessions and revelations will redefine what they mean to each other.
I am not surprised that this film has achieved iconic status among Korean film fans, achieving box office records not only in Korea, but all over Asia as well. This was really a very well-written, perfectly casted and wonderfully-acted film. The chemistry between the lead actors Cha Tae-hyun (as Gyeon-woo) and Jun Ji-hyun (as The Girl) was so charmingly and quirkily vital. The ending is one of the best rom-com endings I had ever seen. Anyone who had followed their journey together up to that point of the film will definitely be very emotionally engaged with what happens, and perhaps even tear up. The musical score and songs were beautifully fit to the scenes where they were heard. The direction of Kwak Jae-yong was faultless with the way he created romantic thrill. 9/10.
MY NEW SASSY GIRL (2016)
Gyeon-woo is back, but without the original Girl anymore. This situation opened up the opportunity for him to meet and hook up with another "sassy" (also unnamed) girl. (He is really a masochistic sort, isn't he?) Anyhow, this girl is Chinese this time, knows her marital arts and her cameras, They actually get married here in a charming indigenous ceremony. Conflict arises when Gyeon-woo gets a job at a tech company with an abusive boss. His Wife will not take that abuse sitting down, but will Gyeon-woo appreciate her for it?
Sad to say, watching "The New Sassy Girl" right after watching "My Sassy Girl" just emphasized just how bad this sequel by director Jo Geun-sik is. The comedy was terribly flat all the way, with nothing memorable that sticks at all. Even the romantic conflict is very lame, practically just tacked on without any emotional impact. The age of Cha Tae-hyun (already 40 years old now) shows, and his attempt to recapture his 2001 charm was largely ineffective. While she is pretty, Victoria Song (as the new Sassy) could not really measure up to the high level set by Jun Ji-hyun in the first film, in both charm and performance. Her role was very poorly developed. I thought this sequel did not really need to happen. It was but an insult to the former's memory. 2/10.