Struggling manhwa (Korean comic) artist Jeong Bae (Lee Sun-Kyun) finds out about a global competition to write the best adult comic, with a preference towards sex. He is a brilliant artist, if a less accomplished writer, he needs a writer to get anywhere in the industry or this competition. It’s here where he meets Da-Rim (Choi Gang-Hee), who vastly over exaggerates her credentials. I didn’t expect much at all from this movie, in fact maybe it’s because I had low expectations for this movie or something. But I found myself really enjoying this romantic comedy for adults. I didn’t really find humor in Korean movies all that funny, but it really works in this one.
I haven’t been this in love with a romantic comedy since the first time I saw My Sassy Girl. And it’s hard to miss My Sassy Girl’s influence, on Petty Romance, in its story structure, its sense of humor, and much of its technique. Petty Romance may be crowd pleasing and highly successful in its native country, but the thing that will make it endure outside is the relationship. While it may be a hard relationship to get behind, and Da-Rim often comes across as aggravating, Petty Romance does carries itself well. Maybe the ending is weak, and maybe there are inherent flaws in the familiarity and lack of coherency, but for a film not to be the typical beautiful girl meets beautiful boy twinned with these animated flourishes. Jung-Hoon gives the viewer enough to enjoy. I got some genuine laughs and chuckles from watching this. I never really liked Lee Sun-Gyun as an actor in some of the movies he is in, mainly because of his mannerism and they way he talks but it worked in this movie. And his character was actually sort of likable for the most part. The actress Choi Gang-Hee played a character that starts off sort of irritating to watch but becomes likable bit by bit as the plot progresses.
As we learn more about both characters stories we see why they act as they do, Bea’s backstory involving a famous artist father and his need for money to retrieve a beloved painting and Da-rim’s family situation with her slightly uncaring, womanising brother along with her own sexual experience, help to give motivation to the otherwise slightly unstable characters. This is a film that dares to deliver some striking imagery, albeit mostly from the assured hands of Seok Jeong-hyeon (exploding heads, frequent nudity and firepower), so a few more gags bordering on risqué would’ve worked; you can be bawdy without the bromance. Still, it’s only a minor criticism – considering its slightly flabby script, Petty Romance flies by at an engaging pace, and is ideal for a night in with your partner.
Definitely worth seeing, it’s basically a well crafted romantic comedy for adults with a great execution. But this is very much Choi Kang-hee’s movie. With rolling eyes, elastic features and any number of quirks and pratfalls, she delivers an appealingly ditzy turn very like Zooey Deschanel’s in New Girl. So if you love comics but you’re also a bit of a softy, this could be the feel-good flick for you. The animated sequences, showing the inner workings of the leads’ minds, were created by award-winning Korean illustrator Seok Jeong-hyeon – but looked pretty amateur to me. The last 20 minutes goes for weepy but manages to both bewilder and drag. Up and downs included, this is an above average romper I urge everyone to check out!