Wednesday, October 29, 2014

댄싱퀸 (Dancing Queen)

정화 (엄정화) and 정민 (황정민) have an interesting love story to tell, and well-documented by the local media to boot. This is mostly because of the oddities involved in their first meeting, combined with some unlucky events which bring them together as a couple. Years later, they struggle to raise their daughter and pay for monthly rent, something that normal families have to go through in their early years together. He manages to become a lawyer while she puts her aspirations to become a pop star on hold, probably forever. Their luck changes when he unwittingly saves a guy who falls down the train tracks, fuelling a media frenzy which would bring him all the way to the Mayoral race of Seoul. She, on the other hand, applies for and successfully gets in a fast-rising girl band called the Dancing Queens. While each of the worlds they now belong in are complicated enough on their own, the fusion of the two seems highly unlikely to be accepted by the general public. Who between husband and wife should give up one dream in order to salvage another?

This movie will probably get mixed reviews if shown to an audience comprised of foreigners. It has something to do with the self-deprecating humor and too much glitz and glamor involved, not to mention the rather contrived events which move the plot forward. Despite its shortcomings, the film is able to keep up a fun and lively atmosphere which is evidently feel-good. If you hate such movies, you would be better off sitting this one out.

In terms of acting, both lead actors bring something to the table. For some reason, they even lend their own names to the characters they portray. The girl was a top pop star in South Korea during the early 90’s, which explains how she is able to accomplish all the demands of the role with such relative ease. The guy is not the conventional heartthrob usually cast for roles like this, but he is a good actor. Perhaps the theater background helps a lot. He is funny when needed be; touching when necessary. The pair has done two or three movies prior to this one, and it is thanks to the rapport between the two that you easily believe their relationship as husband and wife.

While the laughter and the tears might be too much for some, credit should be given with regard to the socially relevant issues that the movie tackles. Take for example the timely debate on the traditional roles of husband and wife. While South Korea remains quite conservative, it is not at all shielded from the influence of the outside world. As such, changing roles in the household is inevitable, and this movie reflects that truth to some extent. Should the wife always be the one to play support?

Another important theme discussed is the relevance of aspirations in family life. Should family life really be considered as some sort of a dead-end for one’s dreams? In the rare case where such dreams are pursued, how would you know when to keep going and when to give up? Is the pursuit of such aspirations worth it or should they abruptly end as child rearing begins?

It is good that the film has an open ending, which is quite a convenient route taken by the writers. Besides, if everyone ends up happy it would be judged as too contrived. If they went for compromise the movie would be deemed too tragic or gloomy. This is still a family movie after all.

Overall, this film could be considered as a good introduction, and a worthy satire to some extent, of the current situation in the country as far as politics, showbiz, and family life are concerned. While some scenes are blown out of proportion, there is still a semblance of truth which gives you a pretty good idea of what makes contemporary South Koreans tick.

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