Director: Christine Yoo
Starring: Brian Tee, Kang Hye-jung, Bobby Lee, Margaret Cho
When 29 year old Jason (Brian Tee) is left at the altar by longtime girlfriend Jinnie (Joy Osmanski), he throws himself into work and hopes to forget and move on. More concerned about his well-being, his parents (Steve Park and Jean Yoon) wish for him get married quickly, not necessarily for love but to avoid an ancient family curse that has apparently killed numerous men in their family if they remain unwed at 30. Not believing in the curse and away in Seoul for business, he meets colleague Na Young (Kang Hye-jeong) and is instantly smitten. After spending a blind date of sorts at karaoke bar, the day before Jason is set to return to America, they part but with a promise to contact each other online. As their long distance romance brings the two closer together, things advance to the point where Na Young arrives in America to meet the family; however she has a little secret that Jason, and his family of curse-obsessed relatives may not be ready for or expecting.
Director Christine Yoo makes her feature film directorial debut in Wedding Palace, a labor of love that has grown out of community from out of Los Angeles’ K-Town. A very light and somewhat ethno-centric romantic comedy, Wedding Palace features solid leads, a funny extended supporting cast, and a bit of whimsy that evokes the comedy heavy first acts of many Korean romantic comedies, but without the heavy-handed melodrama that typically populates the film’s final acts. Some out of place animated sequences reinforce this but they go on for too long and take away from the much funnier real-life scenes. This comedy hits much more than not and provides an opportunity for the actors, many of whom come from a comedy background, to do their thing and take their shots at everything from mysticism, parental involvement, gossip, ‘old world’ customs, and long distance relationships.
Brian Tee is good as Jason; he’s a decent guy, burdened by overbearing parents, and a little goofy, but deserving of love all the same. He does wear on you a bit towards the end of the film for his inclination to go along with family expectations, but his finale does feel earned with how far he’s willing to go for love. After star-making turns in Oldboy and her absolutely amazing performance in Welcome to Dongmakgol, I hadn’t really seen much of Kang Hye-jeong’s more mainstream fare. She is absolutely stunning here as the very beautiful and charming Na Young. Like any girl in love, even despite everything she has going for her, she has vulnerabilities, fears, and worries that help her maintain a sympathetic aire and keep the film somewhat grounded once she falls into madness that is Jason’s family.
Steve Park and Jean Yoon provide some hilarious scenes, with a few of Park’s lines in accented English guaranteed to stick with you post-viewing. Professional comedians Bobby Lee, of MadTV, and Margaret Cho show up in small supporting roles and while not bad, they are nothing to write home about since there is little focus on their characters. Runaway bride Jinnie, played by Joy Osmanski, definitely goes into the overacting bit as the American born rival to Na Young which actually rings somewhat true to self-entitled children of rich families. She’s never really sympathetic but does get some good laughs with her dead-on caricature.
Wedding Palace is a better than average romantic comedy that thankfully keeps the comedy at the fore and features a great extended cast. It is low stakes pure entertainment that never really has you questioning the outcome, but has you enjoying the ride nonetheless. With winning performances and good chemistry by Tee and Kang, Wedding Palace is a Korean-style romantic comedy that keeps it fun and sunny. No amnesia or terminal diseases to see here.
You may enjoy this film if you liked: My Little Bride and/or The Other End of the Line
Special Thanks to GoGoGo Entertainment for providing a viewing copy!
Opening in limited release on September 27th, support independent filmmaking and see it at the cinema!