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[HanCinema's Film Review] "Bad Sister"

2018/04/28 | 687 views | Permalink

Ershan (played by Ivy Chen) is a Chinese astrologer. No, no, "Bad Sister" takes place in the modern day, and oddly enough, I can believe that Ershan is paid serious money just to rig up astrology charts. Especially since as far as "Bad Sister" is concerned, Ershan's charts appear to be completely accurate. It's Ershan's personality that causes trouble, as the woman gets to know older amateur astronomer Joon-ho (played by Ji Jin-hee), who thinks little of Ershan's vocation.

The actual plot to "Bad Sister" is unfortunately a lot less straightforward than a basic description of the two leads makes it sound. The circumstances which drive Ershan and Joon-ho together involve a looming marriage between Ershan's brother Ifeng (played by Cheney Chen) and Joon-ho's daughter Jae-hee (played by Hyerim). Joon-ho thinks those two are too young to get married, while Ershan's main problem is that their astrological chart is out of alignment.

So Ershan and Joon-ho team up to sabotage the marriage. Their initial zany plans to disrupt the couple fail, so they give up, then Ershan comes up with an even wackier idea, and you can probably guess what her idea is. As per the romantic comedy formula, Ershan annoys Joon-ho into liking her, until neither of them can remember the original storyline. Which makes for an awkward climax when Ifeng and Jae-hee's story concludes on the basis of some fairly weak and forgettable exposition.

Fortunately the leads are well-drawn and have decent chemistry. Owing to less than ideal life circumstances, Ershan acts like Ifeng's overbearing forty-something mom while obviously being maybe ten years too young for the role. Joon-ho is similarly a very cranky father figure and not particularly romantic at all. So it's easy to see why he's an eligible bachelor, and also how he ends up being slowly charmed by Ershan's feckless and thinly veiled scheming for the sake of family.

The setpieces are a definite plus. "Bad Sister" takes place in Busan, emphasizing the city's stargazing potential as much as it does the more commonly seen waterfronts. So we're always watching Ershan stumble around, being very loud and Chinese, in very distinctive local environments that are rather out of step with her demeanor. The culture clash is amusing, and I was very impressed that Ivy Chen manages to strike just the right balance between being endearingly quirky and obnoxiously annoying. Ershan and Joon-ho are flawed people, and the humor in "Bad Sister" never shies away from that.

But overall the better more unique elements of "Bad Sister" are not as prominent as I would have liked in the face of all the more clichéd marriage shenanigans. Honestly, I really would have preferred more scenes where Ershan and Joon-ho bicker about the finer distinctions between astrology and astronomy. The argument is so absurd on its face as to be inherently funny. Alas, there's disappointingly little exposition in regards to how Ershan's astrological charts actually work, which is especially odd considering how Joon-ho learning about astrology himself is treated as a big deal in the epilogue.

Review by William Schwartz

 

"Bad Sister" is directed by Kim Tae-gyoon and features Ji Jin-hee, Ivy Chen, Cheney Chen and Hyerim.

 

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