October 25, 2011

My Girlfriend Is an Agent: My, My, My! That's a Stereotypically Good Korean Comedy

Evidently, Americans aren't the only ones out there who make cheesy comedies in which evil Russians conspire to get hold of a deadly virus that could destroy the world, their diabolical strategy pursued not for political reasons but for personal ones. You know, there's one thing about those heartless Communists. They hold grudges like nobody's business. But do Koreans typecast just like we do? Not really. In fact, I'm trying to think of a single sympathetic portrait of a white person in a Korean film (comedy or not) and nothing comes to mind. Even great films like The Host, Antique Bakery, and Lady Vengeance all make use of Americans, Europeans, and Australians for comic relief at best. Know of a Korean film with a major Caucasian character who's a fully formed person? Please, let me know! Which isn't to say I didn't get a big kick out of the Russian baddies in My Girlfriend Is an Agent. The poorly acted, over-exaggerated nemesis is really a staple of comedy.

And My Girlfriend Is an Agent is a pretty good comedy. I'm an unexpected fan of the Korean "My" comedies -- movies like My Mighty Princess and My Sassy Girl. Generally speaking, rom-coms are not my cup of tea. But because this particular variation of the romantic comedy inverts traditional gender roles, I'm all for it. I like to see the man be the pretty sidekick and the woman be the muscle. In My Girlfriend Is an Agent, the nerdy part is Lee Jae-joon (Kang Ji-hwan), a bumbling undercover rookie with kissable lips and just enough smarts to justify his slapstick mistakes. The kick-ass part is Ahn Soo-ji (Kim Ha-neul), an infinitely more skilled martial artist who also works undercover (and who favors wearing her hair parted on the side... "Tomboy!")

He's trying to be taken seriously despite his lack of field experience; she's out to whoop ass, even if that means pursuing criminals while dressed in a bridal gown and driving a jet ski. Naturally they love each other. Just as naturally, they can't stop butting heads. You see, neither knows that the other one is actually working in the same field as a secret agent -- albeit for a different agency. Which means they're constantly lying to each other to hide their professional identities. He's out to track down a Russian cooperative but posing as an accountant; she's committed to saving the planet from a killer virus while pretending to be a custodial worker at a hotel. Their Confucian insistence of being good citizens first, good lovers second speaks volumes of a work ethic I personally admire. And the fact that love wins out in the end truly does make a good movie.

Considering what a light touch is evidenced throughout, it's strange to think that Shin Terra is the same director who did Black House, a serial killer thriller that isn't the least bit funny at all. But he did.

No comments:

Post a Comment