Thursday, February 24, 2011

Movie Review - Don't Believe Her/ Too Beautiful To Lie

* Title: Too Beautiful To Lie
* Revised Romanization: Geunyeoreul midji maseyo

* Hangul: 그녀를 믿지 마세요

* Director: Bae Hyeong Jun

* Runtime: 115 min.
* Language: Korean
* Country: South Korea
* Leads: Kim Ha Neul, Kang Dong Won


Too Beautiful To Lie begins by introducing the heroine of the story, Ju Yeong Ju. She is in prison for fraud and is up for parole. A parole she manages to get granted by totally deceiving the committee with her great "Drama Queen" acting skills. She is on her way to her sister's wedding when she meets Choi Hee Cheol on the train, after an awkward (mostly for him) situation. Hee Cheol is a small town pharmacist on his way to propose to his girlfriend, but he drops the ring under Yeong Ju's seat.

After making a scene by trying to retrieve it and being seen as a complete pervert nosing around between her legs, he gets targeted by a thief who swipes the ring from his pocket, without Hee Cheol even noticing. Yeong Ju witnesses that and is afraid she might be blamed for the robbery instead, which is bad, especially if you're out on parole and with a history of such crimes on your hide. She gets the ring back from the guy, but misses the train on which she has also left her bag with a gift for her sister's wedding. She sets out to find Hee Cheol to give him back the ring and get her bag.

When she gets to his town, she somehow finds herself lying to his family about being his fiancé after getting scared of being called a thief for having the ring. Meanwhile, Hee Cheol is at another town, oblivious about the situation back home and about to propose to his girlfriend with the ring he doesn't know he's lost.

You're doing it wrong
Is that how they treat a lady in Busan?!... I should visit sometime...

Too Beautiful To Lie is not exactly the epitome of romantic movies. Neither is it the most hilarious comedy around. It's more of a comedy with some romance. That said, it doesn't let you get bored or not have fun for even a moment. It's one of those feel good movies that's funny and light for the heart and eyes. You have a nice rural town, common village folk, a street-smart and spunky heroine and a hero whom you just love seeing suffer as he tries to convince his family she's been lying to them only to have them keep beating his ass up. The movie is more about the heroine's time with Hee Cheol and his family and how she comes to appreciate some things in life and place others above herself. She learns just how tough things can get because of lying and how redeeming honesty can be.

Loving Family
She also gets to cause Hee Cheol getting his ass handed to him by his family a number of times

The Story and Characters

The story this movie has to say is in keeping with the overall feel of it. It's not grand. It's a family movie with some nice laughs, a bit of romance and a heroine trapped in a web of lies that cause for some tight albeit hilarious situations. You have a woman who is trying to get back her bag and make a "clean escape" after initiating a pretty big lie to get out of a tough spot. Throw in a big family of very simple small town folk who just met their son's fiancé whom they had heard nothing about till that day. Add a clueless "groom" who is neck deep in trouble and keeps patronizing the woman who clearly has him by the balls in this situation and you've got a very big mayhem of domestic turmoil. Oh, and an adorable senile grandma who seems to unwillingly do her share to make things more difficult for the heroine.

All these characters, however, have their charm and really make you care about them. They feel like family. Like anyone's family. Although the movie is mainly about Yeong Ju and the big mess she's causing, it really is an ensemble classic. You have a quiet father who is just trying to do what's best for his family, aunts and uncles and brother-in-laws who are enjoying having a pretty fiancé show up and townsfolk who, of course, gossip about all this. Another thorn in Hee Cheol's side. All ripples caused by the impact of Yeong Ju in his life.

Yeong Ju herself is quite a nice and layered character as well. She takes pride in her ability to lie convincingly, but she is not really an arrogant person. It's more of an image she has developed to keep face and not seem weak. She is bold and can also be rude and pushy, but she is not really tough. Not menacingly so. She is a good-hearted woman, trying to make a new life for herself, but she is also realistic enough to be afraid of being seen as an easy target for a crime that is happening in her presence. Panic and fear drive her to make one wrong move after the other and causing a mess she needs to get herself out of. Something which isn't at all helped by Hee Cheol who seems unable to help solve this thing as he's too busy whining and freaking out over what Yeong Ju is doing to his life.

Face of a Bully
She does bully him something fierce though...

Which brings us to Hee Cheol. What a poor bastard... He's about to propose to a girl and ask her to move to his hometown with him when he realizes he's lost the ring. He then comes home to find a woman has invaded his family and is posing as his wife to be. Did I mention his father is the mayor of the town? Yes. If you've been to or come from a small place, you know how much of a local celebrity the mayor and his family are. So imagine having a whole town knowing you are refusing to acknowledge a poor beautiful girl who says you promised to marry each other. It's about as big a scandal as it can get in such small places.

As a person, Hee Cheol is not really a bad guy, but he's not great either. He complains a lot but still lets others manipulate him and he's generally very pathetic. A good guy, but he can't put his foot down and make things easier for himself. He also can't seem to spot the good qualities in Yeong Ju very quickly as for most of the film, he sees her as she lets him see her. A wicked woman who is set to drive him mad and ruin his life for a bag.

Losing It
These are the kind of expressions that lead to nervous breakdowns

The family and townsfolk are pretty standard in what you'd find in such movies. Comical, very innocent and caring, not that bright, but not annoyingly dumb. They are very endearing, but they also seem very simple for being fooled like that. Still, the family has been through hardships, so having someone to look after again gives them life and hope. And plenty of energy to beat Hee Cheol up. One really doesn't get bored of seeing them manhandle him each time Yeong Ju makes him out to be a total jerk.

The Cast

I hear Kim Ha Neul is quite famous for some more tragic and dramatic roles, but I have to say, I love her in comedy. She is by far the biggest asset to the movie and really makes the character special. I've seen her in two comedies and she has a very "big sister" vibe about her. She is beautiful, but she doesn't give off a beauty queen or diva image and she is girl-next-door enough, but with more flair. She can also be cute, but not the annoying kawaii type, which I admire in an actress as most of them seem to think annoying and overly spunky are cute qualities. She balances the character very well in being tough as nails for her survival, without coming across as butch or bad.

Yeong Ju also has some more feminine and soft touches about her that Ha Neul does so well to show the softer side of the character. She is also wicked fun when she is deceiving and you can't help but like her. Ha Neul has also done a good job differentiating her acting between the scenes where Yeong Ju is faking it and the ones where she's being honest. When she's pretending to cry or be sad, the actress makes sure it looks fake-ish and comical, but still convincing enough for the viewer to get why she can fool people with it. And you can also see her real feelings pretty clearly when she does show them. Which is more often than she'd like as she is too good of a person to hide her heart.

Kim Ha Neul
Yeong Ju might be badass, but she's still a normal girl

Kang Dong Won has said he hates romantic movies and being more of a character actor, one can see why. He doesn't have such an interesting character to work with, neither does he make Hee Cheol special in any way. He's funny, he makes Hee Cheol very pitiful and he can take some beating very well. He's good, but not exceptional. It's one of those roles where any guy who can seem helpless and gutless enough would do. That said, he does have his funny moments and he does show what the character is going through very well. He's also "weird" enough as an actor to perhaps make the character a bit more fresh and unique than another actor would. Hee Cheol is kind of slimy and completely lacking in any charm as a man. I personally find Kang Dong Won a very charming man, so I think he did good in making the character that much of an unattractive country bumpkin.

Kang Dong Won
He's about - I say, he's about as subtle and suave as Foghorn Leghorn

When chemistry comes into play, however, we have a small problem. Small, because the movie isn't really about the romance, but problem nonetheless. I personally find the chemistry between the two leads a bit lacking. They are good together in the comedy parts and when it comes to all the mental torturing, but when the romance kicks in, things feel weird. Mostly because, despite their real ages, Dong Won still looks like a 16-year-old sometimes and Ha Neul already looked about 30 then. Thankfully, the romantic element kicks in quite late in the movie and both actors make it seem very cute, even if the story doesn't go too much into it.

The Couple
One of the few scenes where they look couple-ish and not like big sister and brother

On the family side, we have some equally nice actors in the cast. Song Jae Ho is very good in his role as a mayor and father. He is a quiet and kind man with big capacity for understanding, but he does kick his son's ass when he believes all the awful things Yeong Ju says about him.

I'm too old for such crap from you, son

Kim Ji Yeong is, as always, a real treat in this movie. If you've been around kdrama and movies long enough, chances are you've seen her in many things. She's lovely to watch. The hair is pretty funky and fake in this, but her performance is very good. Granny seems very frail and utterly confused and lost in her own world, but she is also very likable. Could not think of another actress that could make the character as funny and sweet.

Yes, she is telling a bedtime story to a rope

The rest of the cast is nice at what they do as well, although not much emphasis is given on their characters. They are loud, easily impressed and angered, but they are also caring, good and likable people. They feel like a typical Korean family. Or Greek one... We have a lot in common, believe me...

Seriously. Take away the Asian features and you could have members of my family

What You See

Well, this ain't an action film and it's not artistic in anyway. The outfits and hair are very outdated and the quality of the image isn't the best, but it's pleasantly watchable, even if not expensive. The settings on the other hand, are very nice. Very rural and cozy place. The mayor's house is nice for the size of the family too.

All I'd need in such place would be a boat that can take my weight, a couple of oars and Dong Won

What You Hear

I honestly didn't pay much attention to the score, but I wasn't bothered by it. It works for the type of movie that this is. There are some nice insert songs however, including Bread's "Aubrey", a small part of which Kang Dong Won also sings. Beware though. His voice is divine, but the accent is-a-killin'.

Some Things To Wrap Up

This is a family chick flick. It's comedy, it's light, it's a movie you'll watch on an afternoon, have a good laugh and leave it with a smile. It's got a good cast, nice scenery and an overall light air about it. It has nice and funny moments and I still laugh when I watch it. It's not crazy romance and it only gets somewhat romantic later in the film, like I said before, but it's still a rom-com. It's more about showing certain signs of interest, like Yeong Ju getting the thump thumps in her heart after looking starry-eyed while she hugs a pillow and listens to Hee Cheol sing "Aubrey". Although I can't blame the woman. Kang Dong Won has a very nice voice.

A very standard fangirl pose

Who Will Like It

Women. Men? Nah. If you're a man, you won't find much interest in this. Although we do have some men (straight ones even) over on D-Addicts who enjoy romantic kdrama; something muuuch much cornier and sappier than any movie. Yes, ladies and gentlemen. Such men do not only exist in fairytales. And shame on anyone who'll make fun of them for being romantic and confident enough in their sexuality to watch chick flicks. Grrr. So if you are a dude romantic enough to enjoy chick flicks, you'll like this. Also, some ladies I know, who find Kang Dong Won too creepy to even look at, would benefit from this. This guy is too much of a wimp and a 5-year-old girl could probably take him in a fight. Nothing menacing about Hee Cheol, I guarantee it.

Hee Cheol
I doubt he could even scare away a kitty


The story could have been a bit better and I would have liked more romance, but a good cast, funny scenes and a good atmosphere makes this very pleasant to watch. It's what you expect such a movie to be. It could be a rom-com masterpiece, but it's a good ol' chick flick and that's just fine with me. Also, not overly sobby like many such movies, especially in South Korea. They cry too much sometimes. Not in this movie. And most of the time it's an act by Yeong Ju.

On the Fanboy Scale: Not much to see, but Kim Ha Neul is worth noting (read: looking at), in my humble opinion. She's not at her prettiest, but she's nice enough. Any fans of her would like this too.

On the Fangirl Scale: Not an exceptionally good-looking man in sight. I find Kang Dong Won sexy and handsome as heck, but he's really not much to look at in this. Which works for the movie. Plus, I'm gaga over him anyway, so it doesn't bother me personally. And to close this, a picture from a scene that cracks me up every time. Partly because of what was said and how it was said, but also because of this whole look. Priceless! Yeong Ju is describing to Hee Cheol's sister how they met in her very own and very subjective way.



Photos credited as the links show. Information taken from Asianmediawiki and HanCinema.

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