Review for Petty Romance
There’s one reason that I fell in love with reviewing movies and TV, a reason which surprisingly is even more valid now after all these reviews, than it was when I first started. Even after all this time, I will occasionally get to see something I have never seen before, experience something completely new. I have to admit that it was something I’m very familiar with that drew me to Petty Romance, the mention of manga and anime. But when I took a closer look at the PR release I found something I had never seen before. Petty Romance is my first Korean romantic comedy.
Jeong-Bae is a manga artist who’s having a hard time getting his work published. It’s also becoming urgent, as he needs the cash to buy back a very important painting. Da-Rim on the other hand writes a sex advice column for a magazine, or at least she did until she got fired. It seems that Jeong-Bae may have a way out of his predicament, when a competition for an adult comic is announced with a significant cash prize, but for once he heeds his friends’ advice when it comes to his esoteric storylines, he puts an ad out for a collaborator, someone to write the story to which he’ll draw the art. Da-Rim may have exaggerated her experience in the field, and her attitude to work may be annoying, but she comes up with the story of an erotic assassin who does more than just kill her victims, and it’s a story that looks to be a sure fire hit. But can Jeong-Bae and Da-Rim keep it together long enough to make the competition deadline?
Petty Romance gets an NTSC 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer. The image is clear and sharp throughout, and appears to be encoded for progressive playback. It’s a recent film, so naturally it’s free of print damage (or the digital equivalent) and brings across the image with clarity, and good detail. Other than a slight shimmer during pans, and a little aliasing on fine edges, it’s a good, solid transfer. The film also makes some very effective use of animation, both representing the story that the protagonists are creating, and on occasion their inner thoughts, and there is a wide variety of styles at work. The film really excels when it blends live action with animation.
The only option here is a DD 2.0 Korean stereo track, with optional English subtitles. The dialogue is clear throughout, while the film gets just the sort of quirky and pleasant music score that a romantic comedy deserves. The stereo is effective enough, especially when given a little prologic magic, but a dedicated surround track would have given the film a lot more space, and brought out more in the animated action sequences. The subtitles are clear, easy to read, and accurately timed, but do have one or two typos that could have used a little more proof-reading.
Place the disc in the player and you get trailers auto-playing for The Fox Family, Red Light Revolution, and Desire to Kill.
You’ll find these trailers again when you explore the disc’s animated menus, as well as a trailer for Breathless, and the Petty Romance promo.
With the film, you’ll find 90 seconds worth of slideshow gallery, with stills and artwork from the film. You’ll also find a collection of making of featurettes running to seven minutes in total, with brief interviews, behind the scenes footage, clips, and the making of a music video. There is also some seven minutes worth of interviews with the actors.
The disc rounds off with some promotion for Terracotta Distribution comprising some weblinks and a short featurette about the Terracotta Film Festival.
The clue’s in the title. This is a romance that stems from pettiness, from two totally incompatible people having to share the same space for an extended period of time, rubbing each other the wrong way, annoying each other, nitpicking at each other, a mutual lack of respect that gradually develops into affection. Actually that sounds like the textbook definition of a romantic comedy, but this Korean movie takes the mutually abrasive rom-com stereotype characters to a different level.
The Korean take on the tried and trusted genre is refreshingly crude, irreverent and unapologetic. It doesn’t rely on the main characters being cute and wholesome, and has them do quite unlikeable things to each other. Also, the particular situation in this comedy, the mismatch of comic book artist and would be storywriter is something I’ve certainly not seen before, and allows the film to go in unexpected directions when the characters’ inner thoughts and fantasies come to animated life. The blending of live action and animation really does work well in this context, and gives the film a fresh and original approach to the genre.
In terms of structure however, it follows the pattern established by decades of rom-com output around the world, throw mismatched couple together, watch abrasiveness turn to love, throw in a real world dilemma that pushes them apart again, before reuniting them for a happily ever after. This all hinges on the chemistry between the leads, and I have to say that Jeong-Bae and Da-Rim are brilliant on screen together. The characters really click, and watching them interact on screen is magnetic.
Where the film falls down for me is around the relationship. The success of a rom-com is built on the chemistry between the leads, but it also relies on the supporting cast, and in getting to know the leads as singletons as seen through the eyes of their friends. It’s the Tony Randall role in the Rock Hudson and Doris Day comedies, which seems light and inconsequential, but has to be judged perfectly to entertain, but not detract from the main romance. Unfortunately both Jeong-Bae’s circle of friends, as well as Da-Rim’s brother and best friend are all pretty reprehensible and unlikeable as characters. I got the feeling at times that Jeong-Bae and Da-Rim were fated to be together if only to get away from this lot.
That makes Petty Romance a rather uneven romantic comedy. Any time that the leads are on screen together is magic, the film sparkles and you can’t tear you attention away. The moment the focus switches from this, the film begins to drag. Fortunately the former far outweighs the latter. Petty Romance is a very enjoyable, entertaining and funny romantic comedy, with a very engaging pair of lead characters, and if you want to see something different from the genre, something cruder and a little more in your face without venturing into gross-out comedy territory, then you really should see this. I won’t be surprised if in a few years Hollywood nabs it, sanitises it and remakes it with Jennifer Aniston.