Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: All About my Wife

Exhilaratingly entertaining Korean rom-com, with sparkling performances and some very original writing.

June 21, 2012

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1349508-All_About_Wife_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Doo-hyun (Lee Sun-kyun) has been married for seven years to pretty, smart Jung-in (Lim Soo-jung), but is at the end of his rope with her constant complaining and nagging. He’s too cowardly to directly ask her for a divorce, so when she follows him across Korea to keep him (unwanted) company during a business trip, he hires his devastating playboy of a neighbor, Seong-ki (Ryu Seuong-ryong), to seduce her away from him.

Director/co-writer Min Kyu-dong’s wacky study of modern urban marriage, although overextended, manages to satisfyingly deliver some outrageous laughs and keen observations, as well as moments of real tenderness and passion. The basic premise of All About My Wife is reminiscent of the sparkling boudoir farces Lubitsch was spinning from the silent era through the 1940s, but Min’s hand is less glamorously gossamer, much more abrasively (and funnily) in-your-face, with a decided—very Korean—bent towards potty humor. Call it Almodóvar, Seoul-style.

Jung-in is a nicely original shrew of a character, obnoxious as hell, but also highly relatable, as she cannot help spouting the very things people might be thinking but are far too aware of social propriety and discretion to actually say out loud. “What’s wrong with complaining?” she avers on the radio show which has hired her to do exactly that. “At least, it’s honest!” Her attacks on smugly self-satisfied corporate wives who condescend to her at her husband’s business functions; insensitive advertising campaigns which feature animals dancing happily on the grills which fry them; and people’s overall bland acceptance of so much that is wrong in life are very amusing and often on-target. At times, she recalls Katharine Hepburn in all those movies in which she was so verbosely superior, only to be swatted down by the large, patriarchal paw of Spencer Tracy.

Lim makes a juicy meal of the compellingly complex woman she has been given to play, and is also affectingly tender when she confesses her life’s “Rosebud”: when her father rudely quashed her youthful dreams of being a writer, thereby leading to a frustrated life as unfulfilled homemaker. She met her husband originally in Japan, and he was struck by the very different, gentler demeanor she then possessed when only speaking Japanese, a cultural/language difference the director wittily exploits.

Lee is initially too cartoonish as her henpecked spouse, like Jack Lemmon in those indifferent rom-coms he made without Billy Wilder in the 1960s, but gains in appeal as Doo-hyun realizes just what he is losing, wife-wise. Ryu makes a bracingly game and sexy romantic partner for Lim. Seemingly very ordinary, Seong-ki’s devastating Casanova-effect on women is accurately conveyed as he deadpan-boasts of, and then demonstrates, a hilariously inexhaustible array of personal assets, ranging from speaking fluid French, with a goodly smattering of Afrikaans, to gourmet cooking and having trained in ballet for five years.


Film Review: All About my Wife

Exhilaratingly entertaining Korean rom-com, with sparkling performances and some very original writing.

June 21, 2012

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1349508-All_About_Wife_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Doo-hyun (Lee Sun-kyun) has been married for seven years to pretty, smart Jung-in (Lim Soo-jung), but is at the end of his rope with her constant complaining and nagging. He’s too cowardly to directly ask her for a divorce, so when she follows him across Korea to keep him (unwanted) company during a business trip, he hires his devastating playboy of a neighbor, Seong-ki (Ryu Seuong-ryong), to seduce her away from him.

Director/co-writer Min Kyu-dong’s wacky study of modern urban marriage, although overextended, manages to satisfyingly deliver some outrageous laughs and keen observations, as well as moments of real tenderness and passion. The basic premise of All About My Wife is reminiscent of the sparkling boudoir farces Lubitsch was spinning from the silent era through the 1940s, but Min’s hand is less glamorously gossamer, much more abrasively (and funnily) in-your-face, with a decided—very Korean—bent towards potty humor. Call it Almodóvar, Seoul-style.

Jung-in is a nicely original shrew of a character, obnoxious as hell, but also highly relatable, as she cannot help spouting the very things people might be thinking but are far too aware of social propriety and discretion to actually say out loud. “What’s wrong with complaining?” she avers on the radio show which has hired her to do exactly that. “At least, it’s honest!” Her attacks on smugly self-satisfied corporate wives who condescend to her at her husband’s business functions; insensitive advertising campaigns which feature animals dancing happily on the grills which fry them; and people’s overall bland acceptance of so much that is wrong in life are very amusing and often on-target. At times, she recalls Katharine Hepburn in all those movies in which she was so verbosely superior, only to be swatted down by the large, patriarchal paw of Spencer Tracy.

Lim makes a juicy meal of the compellingly complex woman she has been given to play, and is also affectingly tender when she confesses her life’s “Rosebud”: when her father rudely quashed her youthful dreams of being a writer, thereby leading to a frustrated life as unfulfilled homemaker. She met her husband originally in Japan, and he was struck by the very different, gentler demeanor she then possessed when only speaking Japanese, a cultural/language difference the director wittily exploits.

Lee is initially too cartoonish as her henpecked spouse, like Jack Lemmon in those indifferent rom-coms he made without Billy Wilder in the 1960s, but gains in appeal as Doo-hyun realizes just what he is losing, wife-wise. Ryu makes a bracingly game and sexy romantic partner for Lim. Seemingly very ordinary, Seong-ki’s devastating Casanova-effect on women is accurately conveyed as he deadpan-boasts of, and then demonstrates, a hilariously inexhaustible array of personal assets, ranging from speaking fluid French, with a goodly smattering of Afrikaans, to gourmet cooking and having trained in ballet for five years.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Momo
Film Review: Letter to Momo

Literally beset by goblins, this strained animated effort should have concentrated on the human elements of its story rather than the supernatural. More »

A Master Builder
Film Review: A Master Builder

A personal project which should have stayed personal, this turgid yet flat Ibsen adaptation is third-time unlucky for Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory. More »

Fanny
Film Review: Fanny

"Classic" is a word all too casually bandied about, but for Daniel Auteuil's screen adaptation of this beloved French trilogy it is completely apropos. More »

Alive Inside
Film Review: Alive Inside

Incredibly moving and powerful documentary about combatting Alzheimer's with music. Without the use of a single CGI effect, you see literal miracles happening here. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Sex Tape review
Film Review: Sex Tape

Couple's homemade porn circulates on the web in an R-rated comedy that wastes the talents of its stars. More »

The Purge: Anarchy
Film Review: The Purge: Anarchy

A modest but noticeable improvement on its predecessor, The Purge: Anarchy offers a more effective—if still far from ideal—realization of the series' killer premise. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here