This post contains SPOILERS.
Dae-woo is a college professor who is too shy and awkward to ask women out on dates. He says that women tend to be too interested in stupid stuff like horoscopes and that he's better off without them, but, in reality, he'd like nothing more than to have a girlfriend. Now that he's getting older (in his thirties?), it occurs to him that it would be nice if he had someone he could come home to, someone who would rub his back when it aches.
Then he meets Mina. She likes him, even though he badly fumbled their first date. She's interested in art and literature, unlike all those horoscope-loving women. She seems perfect for him, except...what if she isn't? It becomes more and more clear that Mina is hiding dark secrets. Does she really like Dae-woo, or is she just pretending? And, even if she does like him, does Dae-woo really want a murderer like her for a girlfriend?
I think this is the second Korean romantic comedy movie I've seen, and, just like 200 Pound Beauty didn't really work for me, neither did My Scary Girl. I don't know if I'm watching the wrong Korean romantic comedies, or if it's just that I don't “get” them. I can at least say that 200 Pound Beauty worked better for me than My Scary Girl did, though.
The description on Netflix says this:
“Hwang Dae-woo, a college lecturer, is gentle and kind, but his awkwardness has kept him from finding love -- until he meets Lee Mi-na. They embark on a fairy tale romance, but Mi-na may be hiding something.”The movie did not deliver what the description promised. Dae-woo was not “gentle and kind.” He was one of those “nice guys” who is incapable of seeing himself for what he is, a wishy washy, pathetic jerk. His and Mina's relationship wasn't a “fairy tale romance.” In fact, early on, I figured Mina was just using him, because why else would she continue a relationship that was cringe-worthy to watch? The only absolutely true thing in the description was the mention of Mina hiding something. Boy was she ever.
I'll start with Dae-woo. He whined and complained a lot. When he did things for people, such as giving up his seat on the train for an elderly lady or helping an elderly man carry something heavy, it wasn't because he was kind, it was because he was guilt-tripped into it. This was a guy who resented his “best friend” for being able to talk to women and for having a girlfriend. Specifically, his friend was dating a woman he would have liked to ask out. Dae-woo's friend basically forced him to ask Mina out, and it stunned Dae-woo when she accepted. He took her to dinner and a movie but absolutely failed, because he was so busy trying to be funny and interesting that he forgot to actually listen to what Mina was saying. While Mina was in the bathroom, he slipped the present he couldn't bring himself to openly give her into her bag. She later learned that it contained a rose, with an expensive necklace underneath.
This, combined with Dae-woo's creepily intense/angry explanation for his behavior that evening should have ended their relationship right then and there, but instead Mina kissed him. When she opened later presents from him, clearly hoping that he had included more expensive jewelry, I figured she was a gold digger. Dae-woo finding a naked guy in her apartment seemed to confirm my theory. Quite frankly, I disliked Dae-woo so much that I hoped Mina was a gold digger. Watching Dae-woo kiss her made my skin crawl, and I hated his habit of bragging about his relationship with Mina to anyone he could find who would listen.
After watching the whole movie, I've come to the conclusion that I was supposed to believe that Mina really was in love with Dae-woo. Which is just icky. I wanted her to be able to do better than him, and certainly better than her loser abusive ex-boyfriend.
Mina really was hiding something, but what she was hiding wasn't some kind of setup to take Dae-woo for all he had. No, prior to the start of the movie, Mina married a guy and killed him for his money. I'm a little fuzzy on all the details, but she needed to get out of the country so that she could get access to his money without worrying so much about the authorities. Her ex-boyfriend's arrival at her apartment wasn't part of her plan. And, plus, like I said, he was abusive. So she killed him.
Considering the number of people Mina killed, it feels a little weird to write this, but she was the one I was rooting for throughout the movie. The actress who played her, Kang-hee Choi, was appealing – I recognized her from Protect the Boss (a K-drama I have yet to finish, but need to – Kang-hee Choi's character is wonderful in that show) and was thrilled to see her in this movie. She didn't have a lot to work with, but she did what she could, and the result was that Mina was the most sympathetic character in the whole movie. It didn't look like Mina had ever been in a relationship where the other person truly cared for her and did things for her. I wish she'd been able to do better than Dae-woo.
Dae-woo got upset and/or jealous a lot, at which time he insulted Mina. When he saw her naked ex-boyfriend in her apartment, he refused to listen to what she had to say and basically called her a whore. Then he went back to her, said he'd forgive her, and begged her to take him back. He did the same thing every single time he learned something new that she'd been hiding from him. Even when he found out she'd murdered people (there was one line that was something along the lines of "If it had just been one person you'd murdered, I could have forgiven it!"). Okay, yes, Mina lied to Dae-woo about just about everything, but I disliked Dae-woo so much that all I could focus on was how pathetic he was. This was a guy who'd have forgiven anything just so that he could continue to have a girlfriend who'd kiss him, have sex with him, and rub his back when it ached.
The best thing about this movie was Mina. I'd rather have watched a black comedy about Mina becoming true friends with that one roommate of hers (their grave digging scene was great) than the black romantic comedy I actually got. The one bright spot, I guess, was the way the movie ended, with Mina seemingly quite happy on her own and Dae-woo the same pathetic loser he'd been throughout the movie. Seriously, is this normal for Korean romantic comedies? To end with the primary couple not together? 200 Pound Beauty was like this, too. Not that I'm complaining, since I wasn't a fan of the relationships in either movie, but it's very weird for someone used to Hollywood romantic comedies.
My watch-alikes list could be better. Take it with a grain of salt.
- So I Married an Axe Murderer (live action movie) - Another movie starring a guy who doesn't have much luck with relationships, until he meets the girl of his dreams...who he begins to suspect may be a killer. I haven't seen this, but it sounds perfect for fans of My Scary Girl.
- 200 Pound Beauty (live action movie) - Okay, so I'm reaching, but this movie is kind of a black comedy, considering the number of times attempted suicide is used for humor. Those who'd like another Korean movie with romance and a likable heroine might want to give this a try. I've written about this movie.
- Dexter (live action TV series) - Dexter enjoys killing way more than Mina does, but I still think this series has potential as a watch-alike. Those who'd like something else featuring a protagonist who is surprisingly likable, despite being a killer during his free time, might want to give this a try. I've written about the second season of the TV series, as well as the fourth book of the series the TV show is based on.