With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Friday, January 31, 2014

Korean comedy MISS GRANNY opens today in limited theatrical release

CJ Entertainment
 Miss Granny
Directed by HWANG Dong-hyuk
South Korea, 2013, 124 minutes

The delightful South Korea comedy Miss Granny opens in three U.S. markets today: Los Angeles (CGV Cinemas), New York (Bay Terrace), and New Jersey (Edgewater Multiplex). (Info and showtimes are available at the official Miss Granny website. Note- see addendum at the end of this review for three additional cities.)

Miss Granny is a transformation tale along the lines of Big (1988). In that film a young boy is magically transformed physically into the body of an adult. However in Miss Granny, the aging process is reversed: a 74 year old grandmother becomes a twenty year old version of herself.

OH Mal-soon (actress NA Moon-Hee) is the granny in question. Widowed at a young age, she raised her only child, BAN Hyun-Chul (SUNG Dong-Il, Foxy Festival, 200 Pounds Beauty), on her own. BAN is now a professor at a prestigious national university, and an authority on gerontology. OH lives with him, his wife and their teenage son BAN Ji-Ha, who writes songs and plays in a heavy metal band, and daughter.

OH works at a senior cafe. Mr. Park (PARK In-Hwan), a widower, is her neighbor and co-worker; he has cared about her for years. As a youth, he worked as a house servant in her home, so they have a long history together.

Actress NA Moon-Hee, left, as OH Mal-soon

OH is a crotchety, cantankerous old battle-ax. When OH's "suggestions" to her daughter-in-law, which are really no more than a veiled series of criticisms, result in her developing a serious heart condition, the family comes to think granny must go live in a retirement home, at least for awhile.

Dispirited, OH wanders the streets alone and comes across the Forever Young Portrait Studio. She decides to have her funeral photograph taken, and the photographer promises to make her look fifty-some years younger. Afterwards, while riding on a bus, she discovers that that is exactly what has happened. Though her mind is still that of a 74 year old, she now looks just like she did when she was twenty!

Even as a twenty year old, Miss Granny cannot resist feeding her grandson.

Taking the name of Audrey Hepburn, her favorite actress, she reinvents herself as OH Doo-Ri and is now played by SHIM Eun-Kyung (Sunny, Masquerade). Comic incidents abound as she makes the most of her new-found youth and begins to realize the dream of her youth, namely to become a singer. Only now it's with her grandson's band!

There's lots of credit to go around for the phenomenal way this film succeeds. The story was written by SHIN Dong-Ick, HONG Yoon-Jeong, and DONG Hee-sun. In addition to directing the film, HWANG Dong-Hyeuk also did the screenplay adaptation. I don't know who did the English subtitles, but whoever is responsible is to be most highly commended. Physical comedy relatively easily crosses borders, but the verbal aspects of comedy face many pitfalls. In Miss Granny, the sense of young OH Doo-Ri speaking in the vernacular of an old woman really comes across delightfully.

OH Doo-Ri (SHIM Eun-Kyun) rediscovers one of the joys of being youthful 

Which brings me to SHIM Eun-Kyung. While the entire cast puts in commendable performances, SHIM's is outstanding, a real revelation. In facial gestures, body language, and dialogue delivery, she does a remarkable job of convincingly portraying the opinionated, quarrelsome old woman inside the youthful body of a twenty year old.

ACF Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars; very, very highly recommended.

Addendum, Monday February 3rd: The official Miss Granny website now indicates that the film is also playing in Honolulu, Toronto and Vancouver.

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