ContactSales: Daisy Entertainment, Seoul (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Theatrical release: South Korea, 14 Feb 2013.
Presented by Daisy Entertainment (SK), in association with Cinergy Entertainment. Produced by Sopoong Film (SK). Executive producer: Kim Won-guk. Producer: Kim Hyeon-shin.
Script: No Hye-yeong, Ha Su-jin, Lee Won-suk. Adaptation: Kim Jin, Choi Jin-won. Idea: Lee Won-suk. Development: Lee Ho-jae, Kim Seon-ryeong. Photography: Kim Seon-ryeong. Editing: Kim Chang-ju. Music: Mowg. Art direction: Choi Im. Costumes: Choi Seo-jin. Sound: Lee Sun-seong, Lee Min-gyu. Special effects: Yun Dae-won. Visual effects: Jo Yi-seok, Mun Byeong-yong (UFO SDL). Visual supervision: Lee Wu-seop.
Cast: Lee Shi-yeong (Choi Bo-na), Oh Jeong-se (Lee Seung-jae), Park Yeong-gyu (Dr. Swarlski), Kim Jeong-tae (Wu Seong-cheol, Bo-na's ex), Lee Won-jong (Yuk Bong-a, the director), Bae Seong-u (Jin, Seung-jae's manager), Kim Jun-seong (Oh Ji-hun), Kim Min-jae (Jo Seung-hwan, the assistant director), Gyeong Su-jin (Kim Mi-ra, the office cutie), An Yong-jun (Seong-jae), Cheon Jin-ho (Jong-seok, Seung-jae's assistant), Yang Yun-yeong (Yun Ji-eun, the actress), Hwang In-cheong (Seung-jae's stylist), Anton, Tanya (models in video), Kim Yeong-ung (director of photography), Kim Gyeong-jin (man trying to get into taxi).
How to Use Guys with Secret Tips 남자사용설명서
Contemporary romantic comedy
2013, colour, 2.35:1, 114 mins
Directed by Lee Won-suk (이원석 | 李源碩)
By Derek Elley
Fri, 12 April 2013, 09:30 AM (HKT)
Formulaic rom-com, set in the film industry, is perkily played and directed. Asian events.
Seoul, the present day. Plain Jane dogsbody Choi Bo-na (Lee Shi-yeong), 30, has spent five years at Yuk Production working round the clock to become a second assistant director but is still treated with no respect by her boss, hack commercials director Yuk Bong-a (Lee Won-jong). During a beach shoot with egotistical star Lee Seung-jae (Oh Jeong-se) - whom she's known since he was a jobbing actor - Bo-na falls asleep from exhaustion and wakes up at night to find everyone has gone back to Seoul. By the beach she sees a magical stall selling self-help videotapes featuring a certain Dr. Swarlski (Park Yeong-gu) and, feeling she is a victim of social discrimination, buys one that claims to help her make her way in a "man's world". Bo-na studies it for tips, getting rid of her parka and becoming slightly more confident. When a re-shoot on the beach is necessary, and the director has an accident en route, Bo-na takes over the directing chair and is a success. Seung-jae starts being nicer to her and, after they get drunk one evening, they end up in bed together. As Bo-na's career takes a sudden up-turn, with offers of work from agencies, Seung-jae's starts to decline, and he becomes jealous of Bo-na paying attention to another star, Oh Ji-hun (Kim Jun-seong). Then Bo-na gets a directing offer from agency head Wu Seong-cheol (Kim Jeong-tae), a former boyfriend who treated her badly years ago.
Despite being saddled with a horribly cute English title, How to Use Guys with Secret Tips 남자사용설명서 is a enjoyably breezy rom-com set in the commercials industry that's utterly formulaic but none the worse for that, especially thanks to good chemistry between its varied cast. The screenplay, lead written by NO Hye-yeong 노혜영 who knows her way around the genre (Singles 싱글즈 (2003), 200 Pounds Beauty 미녀는 괴로워 (2006)), starts with a vaguely feminist agenda — put-upon Plain Jane buys a self-help manual to get even with men — but soon ditches that in favour of a straight odd-couple comedy between a quietly talented assistant director and an egotistical male star.
As the former, LEE Shi-yeong 이시영 | 李是英, who was so good in the charming rom-com Couples 커플즈 (2011), has a hard time convincing anyone she's a Plain Jane once she's got rid of her geeky parka; but realism is hardly a yardstick here, and Guys is basically another South Korean anthem to good looks and personal success, with no deep insights on male-female relationships. Both reining back and letting loose her frustrations, Lee plays off well against co-lead OH Jeong-se 오정세 | 吳政世 (Couples, Petty Romance 쩨쩨한 로맨스 (2010)) who's almost the spitting image of comic actor RYU Seung-beom 류승범 | 柳昇範 when he's playing the arsehole star but also shades his character in line with Lee's in the more romantic moments.
The film-industry setting provides a rich raft of over-cooked characters and comic situations to sustain the fairly thin plot, which has the genre's normal share of emotional reverses but few surprises beyond that. The funniest gags are mostly physical rather than verbal — the leads' sexual sparring in a lift, for example, plus goofy reaction shots — when first-time director LEE Won-suk 이원석 | 李源碩 just lets the camera run; elsewhere, the movie is jazzed up with manga-like screen graphics, musical lollipops (Ennio Morricone, Puccini, Bizet), and occasional sex-talk.
The main flaw of the script, on which six other people also worked apart from No, is the framing device of the titular manual, which is fronted by a self-proclaimed expert in psychology, Dr. Swarlski, who walks through the movie like some kind of benign Svengali. The showman-style playing by PARK Yeong-gyu 박영규 | 朴榮奎 (the garage manager in Attack the Gas Station! 주유소 습격사건 (1999) and Attack the Gas Station 2 주유소 습격사건２ (2010)) is not too grating; but the character and the manual idea could be completely eliminated from the film, to its benefit. As the main story develops its own momentum, Swarlski's appearances become an annoying diversion, playing up a self-help angle that the movie has long since left behind.
Technically the production is very smooth, and at 114 minutes not over-long. The film's original Korean title simply means A Manual on How to Use Men. One clap-out-loud scene, in which the heroine takes a swing at her scumbag ex and then rubs her fist, is a lovely in-joke: Lee, 30, is South Korea's only actress who is also a champion amateur boxer.