Sunday, August 3, 2008
Review: The "My Sassy Girl" Remake
OK. This is a tough one. This morning (11:30am; 8-2-08), I finally, finally viewed the United States remake of the South Korean classic, My Sassy Girl.
First things first: I DIDN'T hate it. There, I wrote it. There is much to be said for going in with the mind wide open. I'm not going to say the film was very good or that it would, in any way, compare to the original. It has many, many faults. We'll list them, but first, a brief synopsis.
Charlie Bellow (Jessie Bradford) is a Country bumpkin who moves to the city to attend College. One day, in the subway, he rescues a girl, Jordan Roark (why did they name her? Played by Elisha Cuthbert) from being hit by a train. She calls him "Honey" and collapses. He takes it upon himself to take care of her, which lands him in jail. Their relationship grows in spite of her erratic and abusive behavior.
(Note: this review is going to go deep into spoiler territory. I'm also going to assume you, the reader, has seen the original film.)
The main problem with the film is the length. This film is attempting to compress a 2 hour and 5 minute film into a 90 minutes. This would have me believe that the remake was going to remove a lot of scenes found in the original. Wrong. This movie includes virtually EVERY key scene from the original, including the Military hostage scene (which was the first scene I expected to be excised from the remake). This makes the film move at a rapid fire pace. This remake moves so fast that actual exposition is sometimes glossed over or removed completely. It reminds me of those old Super 8 film digests, where all the key scenes are there with nothing to link them. This is especially problematic in the opening scenes where it's not exactly explained sufficiently how the cops showed up at Charlie's apartment.
Jessie Bradford is a very bland leading man as Charlie Bellow. He seems to be playing the role like Freddie Prinze channeling Jon Cryer. He's too handsome to play the "I-can't-get-a-nice-girl" role and he's too upwardly urban to be playing a guy from the rurals.
Charlie has an Unnecessary sidekick in Leo (Austin Bass). Gyun Woo, in the original, had friends, but he never spent time pointlessly discussing what we already know.
The film also has a bad case of "Explain-it-all-ity". The original had the good sense to at least pretend the audience wasn't a group of idiots. Here, in this remake, everything is spelled out with narration so that even the biggest idiot can see the final plot revelation coming from Mars.
Thankfully, the film has Elisha Cuthbert. The character is unwisely rewritten; she's not mean enough when it counts and we never see her as a danger. She never even says, "Wanna Die?" once in the film. The beauty of Jun Ji-Hyun's masterful performance was that she was a constant danger to herself and everyone around her, yet we still fell in love with her in spite of it all. That said, Elisha Cuthbert carries the movie on her shoulders. Her performance is so good that she even sells the most mediocre lines (and there are a ton of them) beautifully. She is completely faultless here. No one could fill Jun Ji-Hyun's shoes and Cuthbert seems to know this.
Joanna Gleason, in a double role as Charlie's Mother and Aunt, is fine here and Chris Sarandon is almost unrecognisable as Jordan's Father.
I also have to give special notice to the Cinematography. The movie looks lovely.
So, there is a lovely surprise here. It's not a wonderful movie. It's not even all that great by any stretch, but somehow, it doesn't embarrass the memory of the original.