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Iím not sure whether South Korea has a Lunar New Year movie season as China does, or perhaps a Valentineís Day release, as we do in the US sometimes, but if it does, that would certainly explain a lot about Like For Likes.  Playing like a lukewarm Korean drama, weíre offered an ensemble of well-known, lovely faces and not one, but three, paper-thin, crowd-pleasing, romantic plots.

Popular actor Jin-woo has it all; heís handsome, young, and in demand.  Life is pretty great, except for an unwelcome job offer thatís a thorn in his side.  A proposed new drama written by his mentor and first champion, Kyung-ah, elicits discomfort and obligation.  A long-ago one-night-stand soured the relationship between the two and their present situation is only complicated when Jin-woo discovers the reason for Kyung-ahís hiatus from the drama scene.  Subsequent peeks at Kyung-ahís Facebook page reveal the son he didnít know she had and the little shaverís uncomfortable resemblance to himself; a likeness Kyung-ah maddeningly refuses to confirm without some concession from Jin-woo, namely his starring in the drama.

In preparation for his upcoming nuptials, Sung-chan rents a flat from the extremely high-strung flight attendant, Joo-ran.  His sudden jilting and a scam that steals all Joo-ranís money finds him with an apartment he doesnít want and her homeless.  They become uncomfortable roommates, with Sung-chan, a wealth of sagacity who can fix any of his friendsí love troubles Ė but not his own - manoeuvring Joo-ranís love life by way of carefully composed - and often fictitious - Facebook status posts.  Sung-chanís success transforming Joo-won from prissy fussbudget to social media vixen may be more than he bargained for.

One of the beneficiaries of Sung-chanís wisdom is his friend, Soo-ho, an aspiring composer despite the fact that an accident has left him unable to hear.  Having gone along in life hiding his disability thanks to superlative lip-reading skills, Soo-ho is at a loss when he falls for the bright, sparky Na-yeon.  The budding couple furthers their courtship on Facebook, which works for Soo-ho just fine, but itís their face-to-face interactions that are tricky as Soo-ho worries that his deafness will drive his new inamorata away.

None of the romances on their own would have made for a satisfying film, or even that great a mini-drama, though it certainly feels like the plots are straight from TV land.  Even with the big screen treatment, the filmmakers are careful to remain fluffy and inoffensively crowd-pleasing at every turn.  Thereís nothing remotely challenging in this rather lazy script and the result allows the viewer to check their brain at the door and enjoy the safely bump-free ride.

The most intriguing of the three stories is the one between Jin-woo, the younger star, and his former mentor, Kyung-ah.  Itís never explicitly said, but thereís a noticeable age difference between the pair, with the female writer appearing old enough to have taught him a thing or two.  The lack of exploration makes for a missed opportunity, because in the actorís image-obsessed world, it could have been an intriguing reason why they didnít continue their initial relationship, rather than the non-explanation provided here.  Even so, the similarity between this premise and the fact that actor Yoo Ah-inís profile shot sky high after a successful 2014 drama called Secret Love Affair, which posed him as a young prodigy who falls in love with his older female mentor, is just more evidence of the lackadaisical writing here.  

As evinced by its Facebook-inspired title, the film urges viewers to believe thereís some sort of social media connection between the three stories, but even that titular aspect is mere plot convenience and feels forced and superfluous.  (I wonder if Facebook paid for the placement?)  Like For Likes survives by the skin of its charming cast, all of whom are far superior to their material, particularly Kang Ha-neul as Soo-ho, the would-be Beethoven, managing his first romance.  Kang gives more effort than the movieís worth, but heís still great to watch, as is Yoo Ah-in {The Throne, Veteran}ís catwalk-ready, casual couture as the idol actor.

Despite the efforts of its appealing and gorgeous cast, Like For Likes is only good as a Valentineís Day trifle for first dates or girlie gatherings.  It drowns in breezy pleasantness with nary a sign of contention, depth or introspection, but sometimes thatís exactly the entire point of going to the movies.

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

Feb 26th, 2016

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