By Lee Hyo-won
The last thing you want in a film celebrating the indie music spirit is something that feels manufactured, and this is unfortunately what can be said of the K-pop idol-fueled omnibus collection "Acoustic".
The problem does not lie in casting sweet-faced crooners from CNBLUE and 2AM ― in fact these boy band members bring a refreshing vibe to the screen. The problem is the script itself that falls into the traps of omnibus works, feeling disjointed and lacking depth.
The three episodes are all inspired by Seoul's hip Hongdae area, the epitome of thriving, eclectic youth culture, but depict the struggles and coming-of-age of aspiring musicians with one-note superficiality ― all in spite of the kooky fantasy elements they try to weave into the story.
The movie, which premiered at the Pusan (Busan) International Film Festival (PIFF) earlier this month, is not all that bad, though. The better threads of the three-part movie do manage to create something atmospheric. The film spotlights the charms of its young stars and would serve as a stepping stone for some of them to pursue more significant roles onscreen, and would, of course, more than appeal to their diehard fans.
Shin Se-kyung, a most sought-after actress since rising to stardom through the hit sitcom "High Kick Through The Roof", graces the first third of the film, "Broccoli". She plays the role of a Hongdae-based singer-songwriter who suffers from a rare disease, which she can only endure by eating instant cup noodles.
While the storyline is predictable and cliched, save for the ramen bit, "Broccoli" actually offers some of the more affecting moments ― "Your music is too mushy", someone criticizes her music, while an agency CEO snickers, "The music is so so, but your looks sell". With her signature long hair blowing in the wind and an array of romantic hippie attire filling the screen, it's a showcase piece for the screen beauty, who sings the songs herself.
"Bakery Attack" is based on a short story by Haruki Murakami, but does not, unfortunately, do justice to the Japanese novelist. Vocalist Seong-won (CNBLUE's Lee Jong-hyun) and drummer Hae-won (Kang Min-hyuk of the same group) decide to sell their beloved guitar out of hungry desperation.
Thanks to Hae-won's forgetfulness and mysterious thinking process, he leaves it at a bakery store, whose owner happens to be an amateur musician. He thus proceeds to preach to the two about what it really means to love music, and they seem to be inspired, despite their rather "Rebel Without a Cause" demeanor, to pursue their dreams no matter how difficult it is. Lee's awkward performance and Kang's oddball character can be laughed off as being unconvincing yet "cute", but the way the guitar ends up in the baker's hands feels much too contrived.
The last segment, "Unlock", takes viewers to a distant future, a world where music has ceased to exist and sound is used as a weapon. Lim Im Seulong of 2AM plays the role of a young man who falls for an uncanny girl with a prosthetic arm (which is of course robotic, played by "Bandhobi's" talented actress Baek Jin-hee). The two embark on a mission to access an iPhone, which has become a treasured relic and stores a precious song from the girl's childhood. The romance is actually very sweet, and made all the more endearing by its actors, but it seems out of place in being packaged with the other two stories.
English subtitles for the movie are available at CGV Yongsan, Myeong-dong and Guro.
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