Director: Kim Jung Hwan
Starring: Han Ye-seul, Song Joong-ki, Lee Sang-yeob, Shin So-yul, Kim Jina
Frivolous and carefree Ji-woong (Song Joong-ki) finds his day to day lifestyle at an end when he ends up evicted and without a penny to his name. Discovering his predicament, and a possible solution to her own, the frugal Hong-sil (Ha Ye-seul) takes him under her wing; providing a place to sleep, food, and the tricks of the trade for making and saving money in some very unique ways. As the two work together, each of their ways begin to rub off on each other and they find that living life too far in one extreme benefits no one and they may just be what each other needs. Personal situations coalesce to keep these two apart, even as the two drastically different people develop a friendship or perhaps more.
Like any romantic comedy, the strength of the film tends to lie with the chemistry between leads. In this case, Song Joong-ki and Ha Ye-seun offer and receive a lot from one another and really exhibit a natural chemistry on screen. The comedic moments and dramatic pieces go well together and everything feels naturally portrayed despite the somewhat unrealistic circumstances that brought these two together. Specifically, Ha is extremely likable as the smart and pragmatic Hong-sil, she certainly goes through a bit of a transformation during the film and her growth is both endearing and earned for her character. Song’s Ji-woong is surprisingly winning as well; I typically dislike male leads in these type of films because they always seem to make bad decisions, and while his character has a few, they are never enough to keep you from being on his side. His good nature certainly outshines any bad decisions his character makes.
Writer/Director Kim Jeong-hwan’s freshman film comes to us with bit of a derivative plotline, but manages to still be entertaining. The film is well shot, for a romantic comedy, and everything is well framed and clean. Unfortunately, the screen direction is not as interesting as other more stylistic films, but it gets the job done and serves its purpose. The music is generally run of the mill but again, serves its purpose, that is, to set up the scene and the mood. There is pretty good ukulele sequence that is both a nice moment between characters and one of the more memorable musical interludes of the film.
Penny Pinchers is a fairly entertaining, if overly predictable, romantic comedy. It thankfully keeps the humor at the fore, even throughout the slightly melodramatic final act, and it provides a nice little story that will have fans of Korean rom-coms satisfied. Coupled with some very likable leads and good focus on story, Penny Pinchers is a much better than average romantic comedy that will entertain you and a loved one. Recommended.
You may enjoy this film if you liked: Frugal Game, and/or Dry Wood Fierce Fire
Special thanks to 5 Points Pictures for providing a viewing copy!