Too Beautiful to Lie
Joo Young-ju is behind bars, living the life of a female prisoner in South Korea. She spends her time making a wooden goose for her sister’s upcoming wedding, and is now up for parole. She tells the parole board her father is dead, her mother works constantly, and her sister missed a year of school to pay for her education, all while tearing up. The Parole Board buys it and she’s granted a release, but back in the holding area she is teaching the other prisoners how to lie convincingly and cry correctly. Young-ju leaves the prison and calls her sister, who is embarrassed by Young-ju and doesn’t want her future in-laws to know Young-ju is an ex-con.
Young-ju goes on a train ride, where a parade of passengers of varying degrees of annoyance sit by her. Finally a young man named Choi Hee-chul sits by her, though she is asleep at this point. Hee-chul pulls out an engagement ring from his coat and begins fondling it, given shades of Gollum. One bump of the train later, and the ring has fallen to the ground, and rolled underneath Young-ju. To get his ring back, Hee-chul has to reach past Young-ju, which he tries to do as she sleeps, but she awakens to him on the floor with his hand beneath her legs and freaks out, hitting him repeatedly.
Nursing a beaten face, Hee-chul tries to explain that he’s a good person, a pharmacist studying for med school, and was just getting his ring which belonged to his mother that he’s using to propose to a girl. Young-ju is unimpressed, but as Hee-chul leaves to go to the bathroom he bumps into a thug who pickpockets the ring. Young-ju sees this, but then gets worried that she will be blamed for taking the ring and get in trouble while on parole. She exits the train as the thug does, and jumps on his back, covering his eyes and says “Guess who?” The guy yells at her and she covers it up by saying she thought he was her boyfriend, but she really just used that as cover to steal the ring back. But the train departs then, and Young-ju runs after it, not only does she have the ring, but she left her bag aboard the train. Yelling at Hee-chul does nothing as he can’t hear her, and the train drives off, leaving her at the station.
Young-ju goes to the station office, and they say no bags were reported at the lost and found on the train. People notice her looking at the ring, and she puts it on her hand to get them to stop. She decides to go to the town Hee-chul mentioned he was from to return the ring and get back her bag, which contains the wooden goose she made in prison for her sister. In the small town, which is near the train station, she asks some hairdressers about Choi Hee-chul and gets a bunch of gossip she didn’t need to hear, as well as finding out his father is the mayor, his mother died right after giving birth to his sister, and his grandmother also lives at the Choi’s house. About this time you start noticing the faces the actress playing Joo Young-ju gives at the varying information, most of her expressions throughout this movie are priceless and add a lot to the enjoyment factor.
A taxi driver starts making the move on her, but she tells him to take her to the mayor’s house as she will be the new daughter-in-law to shut him up. At the place, an old woman outside tells her Choi Hee-chul died a year ago, but then Hee-chul’s aunt comes outside and explains that Grandma says that about everyone, and Hee-chul isn’t here but his father is at the pharmacy. Grandma tells the taxi guy he himself died a year ago as she is led away. The taxi driver is also married to Hee-chul’s aunt and so is his uncle.
At the pharmacy she tries to explain what happened, but a cop strolls in who is Mr. Choi’s brother, so Young-ju tries to explain without revealing anything about the stealing parts, and as she is still wearing the ring and the story sounds like she was dating Hee-chul, and she had a fight and is returning the ring. Trapped in her lies, she pretends to cry and tries to leave, but a younger girl walks in and says “Glad to meet you, I heard a lot about you from Hee-chul” and Young-ju faints, and they take her to the hospital. The younger girl is Soo-mi, Hee-chul’s sister.
Meanwhile in the city, Hee-chul is meeting his girl for dinner and a surprise party. But back to the small town, where Young-ju is trying to escape so she doesn’t get in trouble for marriage fraud. (Is that a crime in SK?) She backs into a doctor’s office to avoid some of the family members, then ducks out before the doctor can protest. The doctor comes outside anyway and tells her “At three months you should eat regularly to avoid a miscarriage!” which is overheard by Taxi Uncle and his wife, and there is an OBGYN sign above the doctor’s office door. Now the whole family thinks Hee-chul knocked her up and ditched her, while at that moment Hee-chul is getting ready to propose to his girl Jae-eun (played by Nam Sang-mi). Hee-chul can’t find the ring, and ends up flubbing it. Later Young-ju is staying at the Choi’s while Hee-chul is drinking with his friends and feeling sorry for himself. His father calls and yells at him, telling him to get home as soon as possible.
The Choi family is trying to keep Young-ju around so she doesn’t have an abortion, but she just wants to escape from all the trouble she’s caused. Young-ju tries to climb out the window but is interrupted by Grandma telling a story. A long story. A story about Sun Boy and Moon Girl and them escaping a tiger by climbing a rope. All while Young-ju is desperately holding on. She gives up and climbs back to the window.
The next day Hee-chul is speaking with Jae-eun, she wants him to apply to university with her, and is less than thrilled with his wanting her to see Yong Kang, his hometown, but she reluctantly agrees to see it sometime. Back at Yong Kang, the Chois invite Young-ju to the spa with the family, and as she sees it as a way to escape, she agrees. After they leave, Hee-chul arrives back in town, and is lectured by his taxi-driving uncle about how he is disappointed in him, and that his uncle married his aunt because she was pregnant (though we never actually see this child in the movie…) Hee-chul has no clue what is going on.
Young-ju engineers her escape just as Hee-chul arrives, but he sees her from a distance running, and pursues to yell at her, as he has found out what is going on. He accuses her of taking the ring, but in their yell-fest she suddenly switches vocabulary to “Do you know you’re screwing with me?” and he replies “I screwed with you, so what?” and then his family that just arrived behind him proceeds to knock him senseless for being proud about screwing a girl.
Back at the house Hee-chul is trying to explain the truth, and Young-ju admits she was lying, that she isn’t the pharmacy school girl. But she also says her love for Hee-chul is real, and he cut her off because she wasn’t in college, and she just wanted to return the ring. Mr. Choi asks her what she knows about Hee-chul to determine if she is who she says she is, and she repeats all the gossip she learned from the hairdressers. This convinces everyone and Hee-chul is kicked out of the house. Young-ju then tells Soo-mi how she and Hee-chul met, with a crazy fantasy story where Hee-chul is super-sleazy. Then she gets Hee-chul alone for a few minutes where she demands her bag that was left on the train, and then she’ll leave. He balks, insults her back, and she slaps him, the pretends she was the one slapped when Soo-mi walks in half a second later. Soo-mi then starts hitting Hee-chul. Hee-chul is in way over his head.
Young-ju gets nervous again and tries to run off, but Grandma interrupts, she’s hungry and Young-ju feeds her. The next day at work Hee-chul gets yelled at by all the customers for what he did (or what they think he did) including small children. Young-ju is hanging out with Soo-mi at the local library, which has no money for books for the young kids.
Hee-chul fails to steal Young-ju’s ID card, but manages to get her fingerprints, and has a friend who is a cop run the prints, which will take a few days. After some family things, Young-ju calls her sister, who is mad at her and doesn’t believe anything she says, Young-ju yells some then hangs up.
Young Kang town holds a Pepper Boy competition every year during it’s Pepper Festival, and the cop friend of Hee-chul’s was going to be the town’s entrant, but he hurts himself on the job and can no longer participate. Young-ju gets the idea that Hee-chul can compete, and Hee-chul is forced to do it against his better judgment, and Young-ju and Soo-mi work on getting him ready for the competition. The town starts to support him again, but Hee-chul’s main problem is he has no talent, or so they think. Hee-chul can play a mean guitar, and by mean I mean he plays the guitar in the sensitive love way that makes women melt.
Later they are talking about lying, and Hee-chul states he can spot a liar, but Young-ju does not believe him. She tests him by telling him she is beginning to like him, and he is unable to tell if she is lying.
Suddenly —> PLOT TWIST! Back at the Choi’s two of Young-ju’s cellmates from the beginning of the movie arrive, one poses as her sister and the other her sister’s friend. They want in on her con action, as they think this is all an elaborate scam, and Young-ju is trapped, as if she tells on them the Chois will find out the truth about her.
At the Pepper Festival, the new arrivals are scoping out all the cash that is being made while the Pepper Boy contest has started. Choi Hee-chul messes up his introduction, then smiles like a goofball at the lady judges, disturbing them. To top it off, the contestant right before him does a guitar act identical to the one Hee-chul is about to do (Love Me Tender). Instead, Young-ju helps him do a new act, as he sings a Korean rock song as Young-ju and the two convicts act as backup singers. This wows the judges, but the father of the previous contestant objects, as the rules state only the Pepper Boy contestants can perform, and no help. To Make things right Young-ju proposes a pepper eating contest to decide the winner. It is agreed, and the peppers to be used are supposed to be very hot. Hee-chul dives right in chomping by the mouthful, his astonished opponent takes one look and immediately forfeits. Hee-chul wins! And the peasants rejoice! Yay1
The money he wins is used to buy books for the children’s library and the leftovers can be used to send Soo-mi to fashion school. Hee-chul is talking to Young-ju as she is about to leave, when Jae-eun shows up, and she is NOT a country girl. Hee-chul runs her out to talk to her before more people than Soo-mi and Young-ju see her. Jae-eun also brought Young-ju’s bag, which Hee-chul took off the train but left in the city. Jae-eun tells Hee-chul she knows he belongs in the town, but she doesn’t, and that she’ll be okay with whatever his choice is. At this time the fingerprint results come back.
Meanwhile, it looks like the convict girls are leaving with the towns money, and Young-ju with them. When one of them tries to take Hee-chul’s ring off of Young-ju, she forfeits her share in order to keep it, and then leaves the car to go back. Convict Hwa-sook tells her she can’t figure her out and that they shouldn’t meet again (because she’s figured out she’s in love, and that the money box is probably empty.)
And it is, as Mayor Choi tells someone at the fair he was warned by Young-ju to put the money in the bank ahead of time. Young-ju gets back to the Chois just as the cop shows up with the information on Young-ju, and she has to explain everything, then she leaves.
Young-ju manages to make it to her sister’s wedding, and they make up. Later, Young-ju is working as a waitress, and Hee-chul tracks her down. They reenact the lying scene from earlier, then he invites her back to his town. Someone steals his wallet, but he says he doesn’t care about his wallet, mirroring the story of how they met that Young-ju told Soo-mi. The pickpocket is just one of Hee-chul’s friends, and they live happily ever after.
A nice romantic comedy from Korea, yet didn’t fare too well at the box office, though it had the same girl from My Tutor Friend, Ha-Neul Kim, which did pretty well there. I love Ha-Neul Kim’s faces throughout this movie, it ramps up the enjoyment factor. Another quality Korean film, Hong Kong has miles to go to catch up with the constant good films being exported. South Korea seems to put out a lot less junk, or just so many quality films that their junk is lost in the mob. Either way, we all win.
Rated 8/10 (Wooden goose, crying cellmate, sister, GUESS WHO?, rope escape, Young-ju’s expression, little kid, Pepper Boy!)
Please give feedback below!