I know I’ve said that I don’t generally like Korean movies, but that doesn’t mean I hate all of them. I’m not a bigot. One movie that I’ve liked is 2010’s hit film Cyrano; Dating Agency (Sirano; yeonaejojakdo), a fun romantic comedy about a band of amoral but lovable rascals who help people find romance, one romantic cliché at a time. And it starred Uhm Tae Woong, so that proves once again that I can like something that he has been in – doesn’t that bode well for Man from the Equator? But full disclosure: my favorite thing in the movie was Choi Daniel – beyond funny.
What is the Cyrano Dating Agency? It’s a place for the lonely hearted to go and get a little less lonely. Headed by Byeong Hoon (Uhm Tae Woong), it’s like a deluxe matchmaking service for those who want a romance like one in the movies. The crack team of Cupids is made up of struggling members of a theater troupe (including Park Shin Hye and Park Cheol Min from Becoming a Billionaire), so you can imagine the crazy scenarios they concoct for their clients – they are not above using a rain machine to achieve the desired cinematic effect. They are pretty effective as Cupids, having watched enough dramas and movies to know exactly how to get a girl, but their money is still running out. So when Sang Yong (Choi Daniel, Baby-faced Beauty), a rich, passably attractive finance man comes along, it looks like their problems are solved. Except they’ve just gotten worse. For the object of his affection, pretty moped-riding Hee Joong (Lee Min Jung, Midas), is Byeong Hoon’s The One That Got Away. The question isn’t whether Byeong Hoon will be petty enough to sabotage Sang Yong’s chances, but how petty. And the answer is really, really petty.
There were some cute moments in this film, as well as a standout fight scene involving a plastic water bottle. I thought that the ending was actually pretty good, though Park Shin Hye (You’re Beautiful), who played Cupid Min Young, was kind of shafted at the end. What I thought was the most outrageous was that Sang Yong even needed the Agency’s services in the first place (it seemed like fate was on his side), but I didn’t really mind since otherwise there would have been no film. I liked how they made the Cupids all failed actors or playwrights, even if that was on the disturbing side. The message of the film could have been, Don’t keep actors from work or else they’ll be driven to pimp-like activities like this. The film did explore the dark side of the Agency’s activities, such as bad guys who take advantage of what they’ve been taught in order to become jerks to women, but overall it was pretty mindless fun. And that’s what I generally want from movies, you know.
The set-up was straightforward and simple, but the movie was made a lot more fun and enjoyable by the wonderful performance of Choi Daniel. He is my favorite Korean actor right now, mostly because he’s so bizarre and likable. I had first seen him the yawn-worthy Worlds Within with Song Hye Kyo (Full House) and Hyun Bin (Secret Garden) where he was probably the only good thing in it, along with Uhm Ki Joon (Dream High). He played such an outrageous jerk, but you liked him so much that he still stole the show. After this movie, I saw him in the delightful drama Baby-faced Beauty opposite Jang Na Ra (Weddings) where he was super funny and charming even though the drama creeped me out a little at the end. I don’t blame him, of course.
He’s not the typical romantic leading man, I guess, but he somehow just works in everything he does. I love Choi Daniel! But I don’t know how much I love his upcoming career choices – it looks like he’s trying to do serious movies. Really? You can do zany comedy but you’re going to try and be “cool” instead? What a waste. I haven’t seen his big breakthrough performance in the sitcom High Kick Through the Roof, and I probably won’t since it’s so long, but I’m mildly curious about another drama he did with Goo Hye Sun (Boys over Flowers) called The Musical. I’m not sure whether he sings, but I’d even prefer him trying a singing side career even though that usually makes me uncomfortable. One of the highlights of the movie was a duet he sang with Uhm called “I Went to Cheonggyesan Mt.” It’s too cute, really, and if you can catch the music video they made for it, I highly recommend it.
Uhm once again played an unlikable character – he must be pretty confident that he’ll never alienate his audience. But he wasn’t bad, I guess. That’s as much as I can say. I was a little disappointed by Lee Min Jung whom I had really liked as the wacky fiancée in Boys over Flowers. Here she had kind of a thankless role as the Pretty Girl whom the boys like, so maybe it wasn’t her at all, but the material. I worry since she’s set to be the lead in the upcoming Hong Sisters drama based on Big. Don’t leave all of the wackiness to Gong Yoo!
The nods to the play Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand are mainly in the title and the basic setup of the Agency, which is fine since I didn’t really want to see anything tragic in this film. It followed the plot even less than Roxanne, but considering how Korean movies and dramas take a lot of liberties with famous titles, this was practically a word for word adaptation. Anyways, I really liked Cyrano; Dating Agency, weird use of a semicolon and all. I don’t mean to say that this was the best movie ever, but it was just a normal, fun movie. And it doesn’t get much better than that.