Petty Romance is a Korean rom-com following comic book artist Jeong-bae, who is capable of great artwork but less capable at coming up with an engaging and coherent story, who is told to hire a writer in order to help him attempt to win a $100,000 comic book prize. After a series of amusingly bizarre interviews he lands on Da-rim, an unsuccessful sex-columnist who is trying to make it as a creative writer who, it ironically transpires, is a completely sexually unexperienced virgin. This is a rom-com, so you can tell off the bat that the conclusion is inevitable, the two will end up together by the end, but what’s quite fun about Petty Romance is how it gets to that point.
Opening to a rather comical, pun intended, sequence where Bae’s 4 year ‘labour of love’ graphic novel is laughed from the publishers office and he is forcibly removed when his reaction is a tad… emotional. Not long after, following the advice of his publisher friend, and his group of artist friends (of varying levels of success) he sets about having someone else write the story that he will visualise. The initial relationship between Bae and Da-rim is strained to say the least, there are some cultural idioms to do with who should be the elder in a conversation that are frankly lost in the translation for me, but a misunderstanding leads Da-rim to believe that Bea fancies her, when in fact he seems initially to despise her – the comedy aspect of ‘rom-com’. As they begin to create a story – in which a sexually provocative female assassin (that looks like Da-rim) battles with a nemisis/sexual partner (that curiously looks like her brother… a fact not really touched upon) – the pair build an oddball relationship, that is enhanced by their own eccentricities.
As we learn more about both characters stories we see why they act as they do, Bea’s backstory involving a famous artist father and his need for money to retrieve a beloved painting and Da-rim’s family situation with her slightly uncaring, womanising brother along with her own sexual experience, help to give motivation to the otherwise slightly unstable characters.
The movie occasionally dips into some surreal animated sequences, often highly sexualised, to parallel the narrative of the story with it’s comic book facsimile, and these sequences help to add a bit of fun and levity… oh and violence, some of the animated segue are fantastically violent and entertaining action sequences. There is quite a lot to find funny in Petty Romance, in the interactions between the two main cast and, later on, even some laughably cringy moments in what has to be one of the most embarrassing attempted ‘sex scenes’ I’ve watched this year, and a slightly slapstick toilet/shower sex scene fiasco. The story moves along at a satisfying enough pace and is never particularly boring during it’s (just shy of) 2 hour length, and this is helped by the fun frivolous acting and amusing dialogue.
The conclusion is perhaps slightly drawn out with some overly dramatic acting choices from the pair, as they confront each other at the comic book awards ceremony, but it ends how you would expect and is no less satisfying for the slightly manic mannerisms and outbursts. Definitely worth a look if you’re a fan of Korean or Asian comedy, especially if you enjoyed My Sassy Girl, but equally enjoyable for anyone just looking for a decent laugh.
Petty Romance is released on October 8.