Film Review: Crush and Blush

BOTTOM LINE: Mischievous, subversive screwball comedy of raging estrogen.

Pusan International Film Festival
Korean Cinema Today-Panorama

Move over Glenn Close. "Crush and Blush" introduces a Korean "Fatal Attraction" heroine -- an unsassy girl who stalks her way into her dream man's bed by playing games with his wife, mistress and daughter, then erupts into the hellish fury of a woman spurned. Directed with the batty humor of Almodovar's early gems, this character-driven comedy exposes the fine line between female bonding and female rivalry.

"Crush" automatically enjoys a high profile as "Old Boy" director Park Chan-wook's first-ever production. Debuting director Lee Kyoung-mi (Park's former assistant director) combines racy storytelling skills with a feminine sensibility that women can identify with. Sneak previews yielded glowing reports by Korean critics, so the film could be a star in the domestic independent scene. Its festival future also looks good.

Kong Hyo-jin does an uninhibited turn as Mi-sook, a plain but neurotic high school Russian teacher who gets unsightly facial rashes when she develops a crush on colleague Suh. Ranting sessions with her dermatologist-cum-shrink reveal that she blames Yu-ri, her rival for Suh's affections, for all her woes.

Mi-sook might look like she's got both PMS and premature menopause, but she is quite the mistress of manipulation. While acting as confidant to pretty but insecure Yu-ri, she schemes with Suh's daughter Joon-hee to sabotage Yu-ri's chances with Suh. Joon-hee thinks they're saving her parents' marriage. Mi-sook is saving Suh for herself. Scenes of the two posing as Suh in online chats to talk dirty to virginal Yu-ri, then duping her into acting horny in Russian are wildly funny. Frenetically paced and peppered with twists and machine-gun monologues, the comic momentum seldom lets up except for the hysterical final confrontation.

It is a sign of Lee's strength in characterization that an ugly duckling can endear herself to the audience even when she is so mean to the swans. Lee provides enough motives for each person to prove her point that no matter how strangely people behave, they have a reason. Despite making farce out of neediness, the friendship between Mi-sook and Joon-hee gives the tomfoolery an emotional anchor.

Cast: Kong Hyo-jin, Seo Woo, Lee Jong-hyeuk, Hwang Woo Seul Hye, Pang Eun-jin.
Director-screenwriter: Lee Kyoung-mi.
Producer: Park Chan-wook.
Director of photography: Kim Dong-young
Production designer: Hwang Joo-hye
Music: Jang Young-gyu
Editor: Shin Min-kyung.
Sales agent: Finecut Co.
No rating, 101 minutes.
production: Big House/Vantage Holdings presents a Moho Film production