is the bromantic version of A Star is
Born. Kim Tae-sik was once Jang Won-joon’s manager—the term manager in this
context meaning the gopher assigned to Jang by his management agency. Kim harbors
his own dreams of stardom that Jang will help fulfill in exchange for help cleaning
up yet another scandal. There will be drama when the overnight success story
threatens to eclipse his former boss in actor-turned director Park Joong-hoon’s
Top Star (trailer here), which during
the 2014 New York Asian Film Festival.
exchange for taking the fall for Jang’s non-fatal hit-and-run, Kim lands a part
on the star’s latest television crime drama. Despite his questionable chops,
Kim catches on with viewers. Soon he is nearly as big a star as Jang, but many
of their colleagues still refuse to accept the tacky bounder. Nevertheless,
Jang’s agent-lover Mi-na recognizes his commercial potential. He quickly falls
for her, but she never returns his interest with enough enthusiasm for the trio
to be considered a love triangle.
about ten seconds, when Kim is big enough to be considered a social equal but
not big enough to constitute a threat, the two stars become friends. Then it
all falls about. The voluminous skeletons lurking in their closets do not help
is indeed a rise and fall dramatic arc to Top
Star, but it not nearly as predictable as it probably sounds. Frankly,
Mi-na is considerably smarter and Kim is significantly more sociopathic than
one would expect, while Jang is just too slippery to ever get an easy handle
on. Still, it is safe to say the entertainment business is a wee bit corrupting,
as Park (the recipient of NYAFF’s Celebrity Award) should know.
are some knowing winks throughout the film, such as veteran thesp Ahn Sung-ki
playing a fictionalized version of himself and an art-house director, who brings
to mind Hong Sang-soo. Without question though, the guts of Top Star are devoted to a gleefully
reckless morality tale.
Kim, Uhm Tae-woong totally nails the everyman gone bad. He is creepy, yet we
can still see the shy, insecure dreamer in there, somewhere. So E-hyun and her
withering stare make Mi-na refreshingly strong and sexy. Similarly, Kim Min-jun’s
portrait of erratic, less-than-self-aware privilege keeps the audience rather
Yes, it really is like what Chris Rock says: “here
today, gone today.” It might sound
like a dark downer, but the sure-footed Park maintains a brisk trot-like pace,
while bringing out some surprisingly understated work from the fine ensemble.
Solidly entertaining (but only slightly voyeuristic), Top Star is recommended for fans of upscale melodrama and those who
closely follow the Korean film scene. It screens tomorrow (6/28) and Monday
(6/30) at the Walter Reade Theater, as part of this year’s NYAFF.
Labels: Korean Cinema, NYAFF '14, Park Joong-hoon