I hesitated for several weeks before buying Too Beautiful to Lie (2004) because I’m generally not a fan of Kim Ha-neul’s acting (blame the caterwauling in Piano for a poor first impression). Finally bought it for Kang Dong-won whom I thought was pretty cute in Temptation of Wolves.
The movie turned out to be a hoot. This must be my favorite Kim Ha-neul role yet, much better than My Tutor Friend. (I know, many people think My Tutor Friend rocks, but it didn’t do anything for me… and I did watch it twice just to see if I could at least conform to mainstream opinion but nah.) Too Beautiful to Lie was so funny right from the start, and it maintained its rollicking pace all the way to the end.
Young-joo (Kim Ha-neul) is a convict out on parole who runs into Choi Hee-chul (Kang Dong-won) on a train to Busan. Hee-chul is a pharmacist and also the son of the mayor of Yongkang, a very small rural town. He’s in love with a pharmacy student from Seoul and is planning to propose to her with his late mother’s ring – a precious family heirloom.
Unfortunately, through a series of mishaps, he loses the ring which falls into Young-joo’s hands. She in turn loses her bag which contains a special gift that she had made for her sister while in prison. Thinking her bag is with Hee-chul, she goes to Yongkang to look for him and also to return his ring. The folks there mistake her for Hee-chul’s girlfriend (and thinks she is pregnant, ha!), and she is quickly accepted into his family. Meanwhile, the poor unsuspecting guy is down on his knees proposing to his girlfriend when he realizes to his horror that he has no ring!
The movie is full of weird and wacky characters. Young-joo’s first encounter with the townsfolk is in the hair salon where a group of ajummas have gathered. I was laughing so hard watching the gossipy women talk about Hee-chul. The cranky grandma from Full House is here acting as Hee-chul’s senile grandma and she’s both funny and sweet in her absentminded way.
One of the funniest scenes is when Young-joo tries to escape from Hee-chul’s house. She climbs out of the bedroom using a rope but is discovered by the grandma. The latter, of course, has no idea what’s going on and proceeds to tell a really long and odd story while Young-joo is hanging onto the rope for dear life!
Ah, I have not mentioned Kang Dong-won’s acting yet. I felt he was rather flat in places, especially at the beginning, but on the whole I thought he did pretty well. His Hee-chul gets misunderstood and beaten up by his family but then redeems himself when he is forced against his will to take part in a Mr. Pepper Contest – some sort of competition among the towns in that particular province. He strums the guitar, sings Aubrey (lovely song), and dances on the stage. In the process of preparing for the competition, he and Young-joo spend a lot of time together and sparks (good and bad) fly.
There’s a catch of course. She’s a convict out on parole and nobody in the town knows!