Once upon a time in ancient Korea, a pair of star-crossed lovers take their life. The legend tells about princess Pyun-gang who wasn't allowed to marry her true love On-dal and suffered much grief as a consequence. Now her misfortune is to be shared by a girl from the present, whose mother takes her to a fortune-teller. He tells the mother that the child, also named Pyun-gang, will die when she turns 16, if she hasn't married her love On-dal.
Fast forward in time. Pyun-gang's 16th birthday grows ever-nearer, but her parents have convinced themselves that the prophecy is nonsense. Despite having grown into a fearless little harpy, Pyun-gang is still nervous about the future. She's convinced the prophecy will come true and she's desperate for a solution.
And then it happens. A new student transfers to the school and what do you know... His name is On-dal! Finally Pyun-gang will have a chance to stop the curse. She must get her hands on this boy, no matter what. He can run, he can try to hide, but Pyun-gang will have her man one way or the other, even if she has to strap him to the bed.
It's not wise to mess with a girl on a tight schedule.
Don't be surprised if you find yourself slightly out of breath after watching "Marrying High School Girl". It's quite a lot to take in. The story is fast and inventive, but also incoherent and a bit of a mess. This appears to be the director's first feature film, and it feels like it too. Little hints here and there indicate that this is not a seasoned filmmaker. There's an uneven feeling to the film and scenes often fall flat because of all too clever gimmicks. Another sign of a novice director is the fact that the film has absolute no sense of transition. Sometimes it feels like we're just watching a sketch-show with the commercial breaks removed.
Still, you have to admire the sheer ferocity with which the story is told. The style spans from simple sweet teen movie to aggressively over-the-top anally obsessed slapstick humor.
Try this on for size: In one scene Pyun-gang kicks the rear-end of the new school bully, but instead of sending him flying, her toe gets stuck in his ass! When she finally pulls it out a little colorful hand drawn poop floats across the screen, as Pyun-gang races for the bathroom to wash her foot clean of excrement. Don't feel bad if you have to read the paragraph twice to make sure you got it right. I also had to rewind the film and watch the scene again, to make absolutely sure I saw what I think I saw.
"Marrying High School Girl" is also more raunchy than your average Korean teen comedy. To prepare for Pyun-gang's upcoming big night the girls research sex, which they know little about, by looking at dirty magazines and internet porn sites. And one of those classic "show-me-your-moves" moments - where Pyun-gang poses for her friends - turn very sexy indeed as they proceed to rip ALL her clothes off! Even the big moment where On-dal finally gives in to Pyun-gang (and I hope it comes as no surprise that he does), the film opts to play the scene as a comedic "rape", where Pyun-gang lures On-dal into her room, throws him down of the bed and strips off his clothes, despite his pleas for mercy! I'll be the first to admit that I enjoy most of these teen comedies, almost no matter how crazy they are, but this one really tested my limits (it was mostly the poop thing that did it).
Unlike most of these kind of Korean teen comedies, "Marrying High School Girl" doesn't turn serious in the final act, which is probably a good thing, since the contrast would just be too big. Films like "Slave Love" and "He Was Cool" can get away with the shift in tone, because they are built on a real idea, albeit an exaggerated one. Most of them take their leap from situations that real teenagers in the real world could encounter, which is also why they need to turn serious, so they can teach us a lesson. "Opposites attract", "the first impression isn't always the best" and so on.
"Marrying High School Girl" doesn't have a message, and that's the film's greatest flaw. The bacic premise is simply so over the top that it's impossible to relate the story to life, in any way. Don't get me wrong, I was rolling around on the floor laughing while I watched this film, but it didn't stay with me very long after it was over. I blame this on the lack of a deeper meaning. The film didn't manage to form an emotional bond with me (and believe me, I'm easy to bond with) because it was so busy being crazy.
In the film's defence I will say this: It never makes a promise it can't keep. And though I wish it had made some different choices along the way, I guess it's not fair to hold a film to a certain standard or formula, that it really doesn't have any interest in being compared to.
One thing about this film works 110 percent: Actress Im Eun-kyung. Whether she's beating up the school bullies "Matrix-style", or bawling her eyes out because of her impending doom, Im delivers a highly committed performance in the lead. She can't beat the likes of Ha Ji-won ("Slave Love"), but to be honest, I'm not even sure they are in the game. Im Eun-kyung is running solo with the ball here, and she obviously enjoys playing comedy. Apparently she's one of those actresses who have no shame! She'll put herself through the most embarrassing moments you can imagine, for the sake of a good laugh, and that's commendable.
All things being equal, "Marrying High School Girl" will stand and fall will the comedy style. If you don't like it you'll loathe the film, and even if you do like it, the film still have to overcome the flaws I've previously mentioned.
I'll keep an eye out for director Oh Deok-hwan in the future. If this really is a first time effort, I've seen worse. And I'm sure I'll see better from his hands.