"Song Seung Heon is basically unrecognizable here. From Endless Love fame, here he manages the impossible: convince the audience that he is a high-school student"
SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!
"Geunomeun Meoshitseotda" (translates to the guy was cool)
Alternate English Titles
"He Was Cool", "The Guy was Gorgeous"
"Na Siu Jee Jun Si"/"Na Xiao Zhi Zhen Shuai" (Cantonese/Mandarin, translates to that guy is so good-looking), "Cool Lam Kwa Lui"/"Cool Nan Gwa Nu" (Cantonese/Mandarin, translates to the cool guy and the lonely girl; a play on the title of the popular Hong Kong movie Needing You, starring Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng, whose Chinese title is "Ku Lam Kwa Lui", which translates to the lonely guy and girl)
Internet novel by Lee Yoon-sei
Song Seung Heon as Ji Eun Song
Jung Da Bin as Han Ye-Won
Lee Ki-Woo as Kim Han Sung
Kim Ji-Hye as Kim Hyo Bin
The story revolves around two typical romantic comedy leads: our heroine, the poor, petite, plain, clumsy, but warm-hearted Ye-Won, and our hero, the rich, tall, good-looking, rude, and demanding Eun Song. Both are high school students (attending different schools) with very different lifestyles. Ye-Won is constantly teased for her lackluster looks while Eun Song is idolized by younger girls for his good looks and 'cool' demeanor. Their paths cross when Ye-Won accidentally kisses Eun Song. The latter, horrified, demands that Ye-Won claim responsibility for his first kiss and forces her to become his girlfriend.
Through numerous events, the two end up falling for each other (duh), but their road to happiness is rocky, as Eun Song has a traumatic story and past. His father died of AIDS and he is possibly infected as well. His mother, unable to deal with the grief, moved to the United States, leaving Eun Song alone with his less-than-friendly aunt and uncle. As a child, he was endlessly teased and rejected due to his father's and his own possible illness, and has grown up to become rebellious and rude, although in reality he longs for love and companionship. In addition, he is still furious with his ex-best friend Han Sung, with whom he used to be very close until the accidental death of their other best friend Han Bin. Eun Song blames Han Sung for Han Bin's death, although the former keeps trying to make amends and repair their friendship. The rift in their friendship is further exacerbated by the fact that Han Sung is Hyo Bin's older brother (who adores and used to date Eun Song until the arrival of Ye-Won) and that Han Sung is in love with... yep, Ye-Won.
The whole thing comes to blows in classic Asian TV style, where Eun Song leaves for America for a year to visit his mom and returns and gets back together with Ye-Won. Cue happy ending.
First of all, why can't Korean series and movies stick with one title and one title only?! I run Google searches and constantly find Korean series and movies under 3, 4, even 5 English and Chinese titles. It's confusing and unnecessary. Anyways, back to the review.
The Koreans have a way of transforming unoriginal, traditional, done-to-death plots and characters into entertaining experiences. And nothing (that I've seen at least) has turned out to be a complete disaster. So what is the secret? My explanation would be this. The Koreans enjoy a pool of acting talent. Many of the popular actors in Korea come from film school, or at the very least, do not cross over from singing careers (with a few minor exceptions) or beauty pageants. This is where TVB fails miserably, as it insists on promoting horrific actresses for the sole reason that they've won or runnered-up Miss Hong Kong. How great TVB would be if Winnie Yeung, Halina Tam, Anne Heung, Sonija Kwok, Shirley Yeung, etc. did not exist. Anyways, that's on a tangent.
I'm not saying that all Korean actors can act well. What I am saying is that they are good character actors. Meaning they're mostly far away from the calibre of TVB's Paul Chun or the like, but they are good actors in the sense that they really know how to embody the personality of their characters. For example, minor body gestures, facial expressions, little mannerisms in how they walk... they give their characters life and make them believable. This is especially the case for Korean romantic comedies. Again, there are exceptions, but this is the closest explanation I have about how Korean actors have made Korean series/movies popular. As well, Koreans generally do very well in terms of casting. Meaning, they usually cast good actors that 'match' the characters they are playing. You really can't imagine anyone else except the casting director's choices to play the characters. This is not the case for TVB, which has made many a horrific casting choice.
Secondly, some may talk about the unoriginality and lameness of Korean plots and characters. But there is a reason these plots and characters are done to death... and that's because of the demand. People still fall in love with these stories, with these characters because they have some kind of "draw-in" factor about them. And Korean series/movies have managed to put their own little twist on these stories - the heartwrenching music, faces with a lot of character, familiar character archetypes (good girl/bad boy, poor girl/rich boy, etc.), shtick humour - these all contribute to a kind of heart-on-sleeve character of Korean entertainment. There's a lot of heart and humanity in Korean entertainment, and I think that also explains why Korean series/movies are so popular compared to TVB or ATV or China series.
Back to the review of this actual movie. The two leads are two well-known Korean actors and evidence of my argument that Koreans are generally good character actors. Song Seung Heon is basically unrecognizable here. From Endless Love fame (I hated the series but I liked him in it), here he manages the impossible: convince the audience that he is a high-school student. He does very well in the dramatic scenes, but surprisingly is also an effective comic lead. His facial expressions are hilarious, yet he also conveys the rebellious nature of his character very well. Wonderful performance. And he is truly gorgeous in this movie, albeit a little thin. A good-looking, supercool, high school bad boy - yep, I'd fall in love with him. If I was still 16, that is.
Jung Da Bin entered the Korean entertainment business with her debut in the super-popular series Attic Cat, and to me stands out in the crowd of flawless-skin, flawless-hair, flawless-everything Korean actresses. Why? Because she's ugly. I don't mean to be cruel but she's just ugly. And in here they dress her like a granny. But despite her lack of good looks, she gives her characters a kind of extra zest. I said this in my review of Attic Cat - she's not the best dramatic actress (she tends to overact), but she has a kind of odd, impish charm that makes her performances genuine. And because of her less-than-perfect looks, she is a heroine we can root for because she's not flawless like other Korean actresses (who of course have gone through 20 surgeries to look that way, but whatever) - she is thus believable, and more importantly, just like us. She does well here, and has improved since Attic Cat, where she screeched too much. Here she is more quiet but still loveable and funny. I was cracking up during the scene where she's running away from Eun Song with paper in her hair - the expression on her face was hilarious. She is a terrific comedic lead.
What is really strange is that both Jung Da Bin and Song Seung Heon are great choices for their respective characters, and yet they are the last two Korean actors I'd imagine as an onscreen couple. It's somehow so wrong that it works in a right way. And they do have chemistry. Weird.
Kim Ji-Hye is downright creepy, and she's not supposed to be. She's supposed to be the mandatory gorgeous, perfect, b_tchy girlfriend-in-status-only and yet....she reminds me of Gogo from Kill Bill and I'm terrified everytime she appears because I suddenly think that this romantic comedy will. turn into one of those Japanese horror movies. It does not help that her hair is super long, super straight, and framed by cut-straight-across bangs. She belongs in a horror movie, not a romantic comedy. With that said, her performance is only mediocre as I can't see through her creepy appearance, although she nailed the many glares she throws towards Ye-Won.
Who was the actress who played Hyo Bin's friend? She was really good.
The actor who played Han Sung was pretty good as well.
To Watch or Not to Watch, That is the Question
A very entertaining movie, recommended. Just ignore the really fake CGI they use for the dream/fantasy sequences. A definite must-watch for Song Seung Heon fans.