Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Movie Review: Eighteen (2010)
Adolescence is a time when life feels like a rocking horse. So many things in and around you seem to change. Your body and your hormones start doing weird things to your head. The people around you expects more from you now that you're more than just a child. More than that, there seems to be a new feeling that starts to form during this time of life. Love. That feeling you get when you can't help but be attracted to the opposite sex, the people you thought were your enemies. Suddenly they become interesting, they seem beautiful in your eyes, you just want to be with them. But true to many things, this feeling of love isn't completely yours. The parents that might not agree with all this, the friends that don't even help. This helpless feelings of love and life in adolescence is discussed in Eighteen.
Tae-hoon (Seo Jun-young) and Min-jung (Lee Min-ji) decided to "run away" to the beach during their 100th day anniversary. Of course, not telling their parents or anyone else for that matter, they came home getting scorned. In fact, the two parents meet together and came to a conclusion that the two should focus on school for the time being and only see each other when they both get accepted to college. But their time apart has made Min-jung waver as she decided to end their relationship for good. Meanwhile Tae-hoon who may have kept stronger feelings than Min-jung struggles to find life without her and trying to grow up as a man on his own terms.
Truthfully, I wanted to watch this movie only because Seo Jun-young was part of the cast. He did really well in Trees with Deep Roots and Bleak Night and I just have to watch him in other works, just as I do with other actors and actresses that I enjoyed watching. I also approached this movie without much thought, knowing that this, like Bleak Night, was a graduation piece by Jang Gun-jae so it might not be as polished as I would want it to.
Actually, to tell you the truth, coming off from Bleak Night which was wonderful, I had high hopes for this. Not necessarily in quality of picture but quality of story. I thought that because these people weren't pressured to write something that would be worth good money, they would make something that was thought provoking and actually meant something. Coming from there, if I had to give my overall feeling for this movie, it wouldn't be a good one. I'm not saying that this is a horrible work. This is actually better than some shallow rom-com especially made to rake in as much money as possible. But the story just wasn't enough for me.
Just to put it aside, if you are expecting a high definition picture with brilliant color, this movie isn't going to do it for you. You can tell that this project didn't really have that much budget. That's not really my main concern right now. My concern is actually what this movie is trying to tell me. I can roughly tell what the directed wanted to tell, but I feel like his effort wasn't enough to fully grasp my heartstrings. I felt like the scenes were sometimes too random for it to conduct a cohesive piece of work. I guess if I were to interpret it a lot deeper I would get something out of it, but do I need to scratch it more than I need to to fully catch its meaning?
One of the most questionable scenes to me were the scenes in the PC room. In here, Tae-hoon refused to pay the bill in full, so a man who appears to be the manager asks him to step to the back and eventually beats the shit out of him. It might represent how weak Tae-hoon is, or how well-off he actually is with his sparkling white Nike shoes, or how submissive he is, or how he ends up getting the habit of spitting everywhere, or how unexpectedly cruel this world is, but it doesn't really feel like it was the perfect fit for the story itself. It feels a little out of no where actually, and there wasn't any particular continuation out of this event. Tae-hoon just came home with bruises everywhere and decides to quit school, and that's that. In fact many scenes are similar where it wasn't really that important to show. I guess they should signify how horrible Tae-hoon feels about his own life and how we should end up having a pity attitude towards him, but again I feel like some of these scenes are out of place.
I also want to step back and comment on the ending. Did Tae-hoon die? What happened to his relationship with Min-jung? There was a lot of questions unanswered but the story itself didn't feel enough for us to piece together our own conclusion.
In fact, I feel like this movie was confused to what or perhaps how it's trying to tell us. The scenes that lead to the ending felt very empty and I didn't feel much empathy to either character. What's the moral of the story? That we shouldn't enter shady PC rooms? Or we should always be calm when we're riding a motorcycle? I didn't feel like I learned any particular lessons in this movie, which is probably what the director might want to do. Or at least that's what I expect coming from a movie like this. I get that a life of a teenager is difficult, but what do you want me to get out of it?
As for the performance, I think much of the story was put on the shoulders of Seo Jun-young, whose character Tae-hoon becomes the main focus of the story. Again, much like his previous performances that I've watched, he did very well in this movie. I guess there isn't much to say because Tae-hoon wasn't a very active character. If the actor lived his life as a teenager well, with rebellion and love and all, I think this project wouldn't be too difficult. The supporting cast was also well in terms of backing up the story. There wasn't any particular person that I found to be a complete annoyance. Except maybe the PC room manager, but it wasn't because his acting sucks.
I think the main problem in this movie is direction and execution. The idea is good, but the movie didn't provide us with compelling enough scenes for us, or at least me, to grab a clear conclusion. The scenes were so loosely strung together that it feels like it's a separate movie all together. I think if the story was a lot smoother in transition, it might turn out to be a lot better. But with this, the movie just felt very bare and left little impression on me. I was quite disappointed.
Final verdict: 5/10