Crush and Blush (Misseu Hongdangmu) Miss Carrot 미쓰 홍당무 [2008] • South Korea

A career making performance from Kong Hyo-jin. This an intelligent Korean comedy, slightly risqué, that wins with wit, good acting, and an award winning screenplay filled with surprises. A number of times it will set you up to dare it to go somewhere, then it will go there and you'll applaud the way it's delicately handled. There is a lot of frank adult humor in the presence of a child so delicacy is warranted. Props to young actress Woo Seo for taking it all in stride, reminding us that kids are usually hip to many of the things adults think they should be protected from. Kong, a tiny woman who somehow makes herself look fat with facial expressions alone, and who's not afraid to look unattractive, is surprisingly accomplished in her comic timing. She plays a frumpy and unpopular high school teacher who blushes easily and is obsessed with one of her fellow teachers. The director seems to know all the cheap ways to make us laugh but instead of utilizing them she steps around them and shows us a sardonic wit behind the humor on the surface. This is both smart and funny. It's not a goof-ball comedy even though it might look like one from time to time.

Kong plays a teacher, Me-sook, with a mad crush on a married colleague, a crush that started when she was a student of his so now it's reached the level of obsession. She discovers he is having an affair with another woman so she forms an alliance with the man's daughter, Yoo-ri, an unpopular girl who attends the school where they teach, to sabotage the affair and, as far as Yoo-ri is concerned, save his marriage and keep the girl's family together. Of course Me-sook just wants the mistress out of the way so she can have the married man to herself. Things get complicated as Me-sook becomes friends with Yoo-ri and her true intention of destroying the affair and the marriage is found out. Me-sook is so delusional she thinks the man wants to be with her as much as she wants to be with him and she's doing him a favor by getting both the mistress and the wife out of the way. Amidst all the scheming a tender side of Me-sook's character's comes out in her budding relationship with Yoo-ri. The two outcasts find something in each other they weren't getting elsewhere and it makes for a nice, underdog-makes-good, uplifting thread as the film develops to its conclusion. 

Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, Thirst, Lady Vengeance) has a co-writing credit and might be responsible for the daring tendencies in some of the dialog but it's not just a well-written film. All of the performances are good and the direction is assured. This is a winner.

Director: Kyoung-mi Lee
Starring: Hyo-jin Kong, Eun-jin Bang, Woo-seul-hye Hwang, Jong-hyeok Lee, Woo Seo
Beyond Hollywood

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