Sunday, May 17, 2015

Seoul Searching (SIFF 2015) - Movie Review

Seoul Searching is a South Korean coming of age comedy drawn from the real life experiences of writer and director Benson Lee. The movie features an ensemble cast including Justin Chon, Jessica Van, In-Pyo Cha, Teo Yoo, Esteban Ahn, Rosalina Leigh, Byul Kong, Albert Kong, Heejun Han, and Crystal Kay.

The Story:
In an effort to educate foreign born teenagers on Korean culture, the government created a summer camp designed to allow for them to spend time in their home country while learning about the history of their people. What the government didn't expect was a full blown barrage of 1980's culture and attitude being brought in with the boys and girls who were signed up for the camp. With kids caught in a cross fire of cultural history and modern values and their teachers struggling to keep up, the only thing that could happen would be an explosion of hilarious hi-jinks and hormone driven antics.

The Review:
After watching this movie and then listening to Mr. Benson Lee talk about creating it, there is no doubt about how much thought and effort went into it's creation. Drawing from his own experiences at the Korean summer camps, there was no shortage of comedy, drama, and history to include in a story he hoped to be an homage to the great John Hughes films that pretty much defined 1980's pop culture. My personal opinion, this movie should be seen as an equal to Hughes' The Breakfast Club as it contains all of the same elements that helped to define it as a classic of modern film. This isn't just a whimsical comedy meant to provide a few laughs, although it does that very well. There is also a ton of heart and emotion thrown in and the historical significance of what this movie is about really touches on a lot of universal themes.

I really like Lee's use of unknowns and non-actors in some of the roles as you can really tell he was striving for authenticity in the characters over any sort of name recognition for the sake of squeezing out a little more box office. This really pays off with some of the best performances being turned in by Esteban Ahn as Sergio Kim, a womanizing student from Mexico and Rosalina Leigh as American raised Kriz Schultz both of whom had little to no experience to speak of. Actors like Justin Chon (21 and Over), Jessika Van (The Gambler), and Korean star In-Pyo Cha are in place to give balance and respectability to an otherwise inexperienced cast and you really get the sense that everyone involved really enjoyed working on this film.

The Verdict:
I loved this movie. Period.

As a friend of mine recently said: "It was hilarious and fun, yet poignant and moving. The mix is perfect. It's just a really great coming-of-age film."

Go see it as soon as you have an opportunity, I promise you will enjoy it.

CLICK HERE to see when you can watch Seoul Searching.
CLICK HERE to see my picks from the 2015 SIFF lineup.


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