Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Twenty: Time to Grow Up, Amigos
is an uncertain age for guys in South Korea, typically coming after high school,
but before their expected military service. It is particularly awkward for
these three chums, because everything is. Somehow they will mature a little over
the course of Lee Byeong-hun’s Twenty (trailer here), which opens this
Friday in New York.
never had much in common beyond a general horniness, but that was enough for a
fast friendship when Chi-ho, Dong-woo, and Gyeong-jae met John Hughes-style.
After graduation, Chi-ho becomes a lay-about, only aspiring to seduce an older
sugar-mommy. Dong-woo retakes senior year in hopes of scoring better university
test scores the second time around. Although not an uncommon practice in the
ROK, it is a luxury he can no longer afford when his family’s fortunes
precipitously decline. A born plugger, Gyeong-jae enters university hoping it
will be a stepping stone to a prestigious corporate gig.
plans, such as they are, will be complicated by romantic entanglements. Chi-ho
will taste some of his own medicine when he develops an ambiguously romantic
relationship with Eun-hye, a starlet with more ambition than talent. At least it
is a more reciprocal arrangement than Gyeong-jae’s torch-carrying for Jin-ju,
an out-of-his-league senior in his campus investment club. Working several
part-time jobs to support his family, Dong-woo is initially annoyed by the
advances of Gyeong-jae’s sister So-hee, but the high school senior is persistent.
it is all even more complicated than that, but screenwriter-director Lee rather
dexterously juggles the many subplots and extensive cast of characters. He also
nimbly walks a fine line, giving the lads serious enough issues so that there
are real stakes involved, but never letting the film get so heavy it craters
into melodramatic or after-school special terrain. Kang Hyeong-chul’s monster
hit Sunny, which Lee co-wrote, is a
somewhat apt comparative film in terms of tone, but he displays a much lighter
touch for his directorial debut.
contrast, the sizable ensemble is less consistent. Arguably, Kim Woo-bin shows
the greatest range and charisma as the entitled Chi-ho, whereas both Lee
Joon-ho and Kang Ha-neul are a bit too passive and sometimes even a little flat
as Dong-woo and Gyeong-jae, respectively. Lee Yoo-bi and Jung So-min add some
nice energy as little sister So-hee and Chi-ho’s neglected pseudo-girlfriend
So-min, but some of the assorted love interests are cold and detached to a
problematic extent. However, Oh Hyun-kyung completely subverts sentimental stereotypes
and steals most of her scenes as Dong-woo’s brutally honest and direct mother.
You do not often see American studio films that
so freely combine comedy and young anxiety. Again, maybe think of some of the
films we assume John Hughes directed, but he really only wrote and produced,
like Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful. Twenty skews a little older and little
sillier, but American teens would probably love it if they were bold enough to
give it a try. It is surprisingly endearing, but not overly desperate to be
loved. Recommended for fans of Korean rom-coms and coming-of-age films, Twenty opens tomorrow in New York, at the
Labels: Coming of age films, Korean Cinema