Meet Jason Kim. He’s Korean American, a Los Angeleno, and a filial son who’ll do near anything to please his demanding, immigrant parents. So during a business trip to Korea, he meets and serendipitously falls in love with a young, attractive business associate in Seoul. Upon his return to Los Angeles, he takes up an online relationship with his new love interest. The gyopo-meets-FOB girl storyline may be familiar to some of you, but the comedic twists and turns that define Christine Yoo’s feature debut “Wedding Palace” will probably be what you remember most about a film we don’t regularly encounter, that rarest of beasts: a Korean American romantic comedy.
Christine Yoo, director of ‘Wedding Palace’ a Korean American romantic comedy, with actor Charles Kim. I had some reservations when reading up on this film. It had a blurb about being compared to My Big Fat Greek Wedding, which I enjoyed, but I didn’t want to see a Korean version of the same film. Wedding Palace was a sweet story of breaking free of family traditions, ignoring physical differences and finding true love. But, the handsome bachelor’s yearning to get hitched to the woman of his dreams is constantly thwarted by overzealous matchmaking parents, bent on pairing their handsome charismatic son with a suitable bride from a good family with a financially secure background.
“Korean Americans are embracing their heritage a lot more,” Yoo said. “But in America, we’re still viewed as foreign.” Yoo views her dedication to filmmaking as a statement of Asian American viability as a market force, a large network of 17 million Americans, a fact often ignored by Hollywood studios. Kang Hye Jung is at her light-hearted best as Na-Young, the love interest with whom Jason has a long-distance relationship online. The cast was a representative group of Korean American acting talent, some of whom may be familiar to you: Brian Tee, star of “The Wolverine” plays the lead role of Jason Kim while Margaret Cho plays a hilariously-possessed mudang-shaman.
All in all, this film is exactly what Hollywood needs right now. To some extent, her film is also part of a larger cultural movement in the Korean American and Asian American community today. Films such as “Wedding Palace,” as well as scores of documentaries and features presented at this year’s AAIFF were directed by Asian Americans who looked East, or to their respective homelands, for inspiration, guidance, and a story. Some of the physical comedy is over the top and cheesy, and the karaoke-esque montages made some scenes drag, but overall it’s a cutesy PG romantic film.