Love On-Air 원더풀 라디오
Contemporary romantic comedy
2012, colour, 2.35:1, 121 mins
Directed by Kwon Chil-in (권칠인 | 權七仁)
By Derek Elley
Mon, 05 March 2012, 09:15 AM (HKT)
Ultra-smooth radio station rom-com, motored by actress Lee Min-jeong's terrific playing. Asian events.
Seoul, the present day. Shin Jin-a (Lee Min-jeong), onetime lead singer of popular girl group Purple, works as the DJ of the radio show "Wonderful Days" on SBS station Power FM while also trying to restart her career as a solo singer-composer under her manager Cha Dae-geun (Lee Gwang-su). However, the ratings have been dropping, so when the show's producer leaves to have a baby, station manager In-seok (Kim Jeong-tae) assigns the ambitious Lee Jae-hyeok (Lee Jeong-jin) to her job with a brief to bring in some fresh ideas. Jae-hyeok is appalled by Jin-a's casual, diva-ish work attitude and the two don't hit it off. When he challenges her to come up with a new segment for the show, she finally gets an idea from her restaurateur mother (Kim Hae-suk) in which members of the public come into the studio and sing a song to their loved ones. She calls the segment "The Song I Sing to You". The initial broadcast, involving a serving soldier, goes disastrously, but subsequent attempts, involving a brattish schoolgirl (Jo Jeong-eun) and a taxi driver (Jeong Man-shik), are a big success. Jin-a and Jae-hyeok start to bond. However, Lee, the manager of TV drama actress Yun Mi-ra (Seo Yeong) and a major supplier of talent to the radio station, is plotting to bring Jin-a down and replace her with Mi-ra, who still hates Jin-a for leaving Purple at the height of its fame and causing the group's break-up.
With Love On-Air 원더풀 라디오 (2011), KWON Chil-in 권칠인 | 權七仁, one of South Korea's best directors of actresses, comes up with his finest film since the path-breaking hit Singles 싱글즈 (2003). Infused with the same natural sense of ensemble he brought to that movie, as well as the subsequent Hell Cats 뜨거운 것이 좋아 (2007) and Loveholic 참을 수 없는 (2009), this ultra-smooth rom-com set in a radio station bristles with wonderful performances (even down to its well-drawn supporting roles), funny and heartwarming moments, and even throws in a cliffhanger, big-show finale alongside its catchy songs. Though Kwon again works here with a different team of writers, there's no disguising his directorial touch in the fine points of the playing and overall rhythm.
Love On-Air never pretends to be anything more than pure entertainment and, in its throwback to a decade ago when South Korea was producing some of the best rom-coms in Asia, it's the best of its kind since Cyrano Agency 시라노; 연애조작단 (2010), in which coincidentally actress LEE Min-jeong 이민정 | 李敏貞 also co-starred (as the pastor's niece). Better known until recently for her TV work (Boys over Flowers 꽃보다 남자, 2009) than her movies (White Night 백야행 (2009)), 29-year-old Lee carries the movie as a onetime lead singer in a popular girl group who still dreams of making a comeback as a solo singer but is currently hosting a music programme called "Wonderful Radio" (the film's Korean title). Expertly swinging from girly ditz, through self-centred pop diva (with memorable temper tantrums), to serious singer-songwriter, Lee's likeable DJ is the movie's motor, and plays off well against LEE Jeong-jin 이정진 | 李廷鎭 (the suspected child molester in No Doubt 돌이킬 수 없는 (2010)) as a hard-arsed producer brought in to improve her show's ratings.
The rom-com element between the mismatched pair isn't the be-all and end-all of the movie: by the end of the film their central romance is only just beginning. Instead, a whole host of characters and subplots decorate the movie in a way that disguises the fact that Love On-Air is basically pure formula. It doesn't have the complexity of Cyrano, on either a structural or emotional level, but is actually better paced and one of the few South Korean films that justifies its two-hour length. Jokes about girl-groups and the music business are scattered through the film, though in an accessible way, along with cameos by figures like legendary guitarist KIM Tae-won 김태원 | 金泰源 (as a music bar owner), singer-songwriter LEE Seung-hwan 이승환 | 李承桓 (plugging his own studio) and newcomers Dal Shabet 달샤벳 (in a funny girl-group spoof).
After the disappointing look of Loveholic, it's good to see Kwon paying more attention to the visuals, here beautifully shot in warm colours by d.p. CHOI Ju-yeong 최주영. Editing by SHIN Min-gyeong 신민경 is also top-class in its smoothness.
ContactSales: Showbox, Seoul (email@example.com)
Theatrical release: South Korea, 5 Jan 2012.
Presented by Showbox/Mediaplex (SK). Produced by iVision Pictures (SK), in association with Daemyung Culturetainment, ING. Executive producer: Yu Jeong-hun. Producers: Jeon Ho-jin, Seo Jun-hyeok, Park Jong-uk.
Script: Chae Eun-gyeong, Lee Jae-ik, Kim Je-yeong. Photography: Choi Ju-yeong. Editing: Shin Min-gyeong. Music: Hwang Seong-je. Music supervision: Lee Seung-hwan. Art direction: Lee Cho-won, Im Hyeong-yae. Costumes: Kim Yu-seon. Sound: Oh Se-jin, Lee Seong-jin, Han Myeong-hwan. Special effects: Yun Dae-won. Visual effects: Park Jang-jin (Next Visual Studio).
Cast: Lee Min-jeong (Shin Jin-a), Lee Jeong-jin (Lee Jae-hyeok), Lee Gwang-su (Cha Dae-geun, Jin-a's manager), Jeong Yu-mi (Nan-sol, show scriptwriter), Kim Jeong-tae (In-seok, Power FM manager), Kim Hae-suk (Mrs. Lee, Jin-a's mother), Han Yeo-un (Ji In-yeong), Seo Yeong (Yun Mi-ra), Jo Shin-je (Lee, Mi-ra's manager), Jo Jeong-eun (Yun Da-hui, the schoolgirl), Jeong Man-shik (Kim Ji-hyeong, the taxi driver), Kim Tae-won (music bar owner), Dal Shabet (Coby Girls), Lee Seung-hwan (Dream Factory owner), Cul Two (guys in lift).