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Movie Review: My Sassy Girl

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Written by Caballero Oscuro 

If you’re reading this, you’re probably either a) an Elisha Cuthbert fan or b) a fan of the original Korean version of this movie. Either way, you’re bound to be at least a little disappointed with this film. While it’s a largely faithful remake, it can’t quite overcome some amateur production and its own quirky touches.

For the uninitiated, the original My Sassy Girl was a major box-office smash in Korea, marrying screwball comedy with an unexpectedly poignant and romantic conclusion. The property began as a series of true stories posted on the Web that were later compiled into a best-selling book, and also led to incarnations as a manhwa series and a new Japanese TV series broadcast this year. It’s sort of like The Ring of romantic comedy, branching out in various new forms and countries while keeping the core concept the same. Unfortunately, that concept doesn’t translate quite so well on these shores.

The principal theme is the budding relationship between a stable, somewhat nerdy guy (Jesse Bradford) and a wild, crazy, and abusive girl (Cuthbert). Their first encounter is when the sassy and completely wasted girl passes out in public, leading the chivalrous guy to rescue and look after her. In the original film, this act wasn’t quite so chivalrous as the guy ended up taking her to the equivalent of a love hotel where he had to talk himself down from violating her. Clearly, this wouldn’t fly here in a romantic comedy, so in the US version, our gallant hero takes the girl back to his apartment that he shares with another present roommate, thus negating any possibility of hanky panky. Still not all that appealing in the grand scheme of first dates, but at least redeemable.

After that first encounter, the new film and the original become more and more similar until they’re almost carbon copies by the back half. Guy can’t stop thinking about the girl, girl continues to abuse guy verbally, physically, mentally, basically completely taking over his structured life while offering next to nothing in return. Like the original, there’s an ill-advised date at an abandoned theme park that leads to a showdown with a maniacal armed man. Frankly, I hated this sequence in the original and found it completely unbelievable in this version as well. Even more so than the original, it’s really inconceivable that this stable, well-balanced guy would continue to allow the unhinged and non-committal girl to rule his life no matter how cute she is. However, fate plays a strong role in their relationship and by the final reel it becomes clear that no amount of torture by her would have derailed their shot at love.

As the title character, Cuthbert charms for the most part, although she’s far better as the later tragic romantic character than the initial spitfire. Surprisingly, Jesse Bradford is the real star here, stealing the film with his solid portrayal of the stable boyfriend with a heart of gold and the perseverance of a saint.

Now about those flaws. In many of the initial scenes, the blocking is so poor and odd that it pulled me right out of the movie, forcing me to wonder more about who the amateur DP was than about how the film translated from the original. Also, the production team apparently wanted to add their own cutesy Amelie flourishes to the film, including unnecessary scenes of Cuthbert mugging for the camera, montages, and trick photography/variable speeds to tell us that this isn’t just another romantic comedy. The main character is unappealing enough without the added baggage, so the film teeters on total collapse until its borrowed original plot begins to work its magic. Actually, the original also had its own glaring flaws, and it’s only the grand reveal of the true cause of the girl’s sassiness that allows both this film and the original to successfully reach their final stages as completely touching romance. It’s a long and frequently unbelievable road to get there, but viewers who hang in ‘til the end of this new version will find a satisfying conclusion.

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  • Bill Y.

    I haven’t seen the remake yet, but the stable and well-balanced guy in the original continued his relationship because he wanted to heal the girl. He let her rule his life because it cheered her up and slowly healed her wounds. He didn’t stay with her because she was cute.

  • Gho-st

    Frankly was quite disappointed with the remake. It somehow does not catch the charm and querkiness of the original Korean version. I believe many of the film sequences, being believable if set in Korea, just cannot be translated faithfully in US shores.