The Happy Life 즐거운 인생 – Film Review

The Happy LifeName – The Happy Life 즐거운 인생 (2007)
Running Time – 112min
Director – Lee Joon-ik
Actors – Jeong Jin-yeong, Kim Yoon-seok, Kim Sang-ho, Jang Geun-seok
Genre – Comedy Drama

This film was shown as part of the Lee Joon-ik season, the 6th director of the Korean Cultural Centre’s ‘Year of the 12 Directors’ programme.

Who wants to see a Gorilla play the drums? Well Mr Bass player, it turns out the whole world would want to see that. Our real question is what came first? The Cadbury’s advert or The Happy Life? Was Ahjussi from City Hunter the inspiration for the now infamous Cadbury’s advert? We will never know!

Before we start this review we just wanted to confess to a big boo boo we did. I say we, but its actually just me, who made this boo boo purely out of eagerness and too much enthusiasm for a certain favourite movie. I just wanted to spread the Korean movie love yo. It turns out that the film Sunny that screened last Thursday is not Sunny (써니, 2011) but movie by the same English name Sunny (님은 먼곳에, 2008) so apologies for this mistake. But it turns out this Sunny is equally awesome! KCC does it once again and reveal our fickleness as we change our favourite Director once again!

Film Review: The Happy Life 즐거운 인생I went into The Happy Life thinking it was from the same Director as 2011 Sunny and was spotting a lot of similarities and thinking “wow! So this is where all the inspirations from Sunny came from! This is basically a male version of Sunny!”. And you can’t blame me for not releasing and double checking as first off, the opening sequence was extremely similar, almost identical; the housewife preparing breakfast, the daughter grabbing a quick bite before rushing off and leaving her toast half eaten. Only in The Happy Life, roles are in reverse and it is the housewife that leaves some cash, goes to work and the husband is left to finish off the half eaten toast (I thought this might have been some symbolic gesture or maybe a subliminal message to his children who are constantly leaving half eaten toast on the table). But lets get back onto the original Mr Lee Joon-ik.

We have to say that Mr Lee is amazing at capturing a retro era in such a loving reminiscent way that even viewers who weren’t even alive during those eras can relate (i.e. Me). You see old photos from that drawer that you rarely open which encase key moments in your life in the form of photographs and letters; because back then, photos were expensive and every moment captured and written about was a special moment worth capturing. In the space of 15 minutes, you can already sense the deep friendship within the main characters, which is quite a feat because these are grown men. After Love, Fiction it was very cool to see another movie which concentrated on the male state of mind; to break this idea that men are unemotional and detached from the world. Men have feelings too, they just express it in different ways, which we’ll witness in this touching yet funny movie about three friends reforming their band in honour of their beloved friend.

Just a quick synopsis of the plot, middle aged men who used to be in a band reunite after the death of the lead singer. They all seem to be stuck in a rut and soon reform the band which reminds them of their strong friendship and together they take on this thing called life and live their dream *air punch*. I felt the actors were really well chosen and I’m not just talking about Jang Geun Suk. The Guitarist was introduced as some sort of lazy wandering bum of a husband; he owes everyone money, he has no ambition career wise. But this is quickly turned around after some cringey, laughable yet rather touching scene when he tries to bring everyone together. The drummer (Ahjussi from City Hunter) is super adorable as always and the bass guitarist starts off pretty much how we’d expect a middle aged man to be. Constantly working, distant, reserved, but then you suddenly see him with this passion, like a fire set alight within him (ok we are getting cheesy now). But what is great about this movie is how it focuses on male friendship, brotherhood, or bromance? It is not often seen in movies, especially during the time that this movie was made in 2007. The Hangover crew had not even started drinking yet and Barney Stinson was just some corporate guy in a suit.

Film Review: The Happy Life 즐거운 인생

All image sources : SouthKoreaaddict

I find Mr Lee portrayed the deep male bond magnificently. It’s a connection that is non verbal and hard to show, when we think of male bonding we generally just picture men sat in a pub or around a gaming console not talking. In this movie, I don’t know how to explain it nor can I understand what kind of sorcery this is but Lee Joon-ik has managed to express the deep bond between these men realistically. It’s not cheesy and appears very genuine (just like the instrument playing). What makes the friendship seem so realistic is the ladish behaviour such as the mocking, life is full of ups and downs which the men in the movie experience and during a rather sad moment, they start making jokes. It’s a rather “gasp how inappropriate moment”, but in real life, this is what blokes do, lads jokes at each others expenses. And the actors were brilliant in expressing this bro love towards each other without saying anything. Seriously cannot explain how Mr Lee was able to make such strong emotions come off screen.

Film Review: The Happy Life 즐거운 인생

Even though I am a fan of Jang Geun Suk, and during the movie you see a grown man also literally, falling in love with him, but by the end of this movie, my love was with the other guys of the band. I was especially happy to find out that Mr Lee has used Jeong Jin Yeong again and again and again in his movies! After watching Mr Lee’s other movies, I can see he has a real knack for taking a mundane average person and propelling them into this charming rockstar and achieving something great and unthinkable. This is such a feel good movie! But it’s not all fun and games, I feel like Lee Joon-ik always weaves a deep philosophical message in his movies. Although this movie was a comedy, it had some very hard hitting moments and topics such as recession and divorce. But he juxtaposes these sad emotional scenes with comedy. *SPOILER ALERT: For example, a sad divorce moment was overcome by some hilarious angry man singing* And I see this as a message about how life is full of ups and downs, sometimes you just need to deal with them with a bit of comedy, some good friends and a good emo singalong. I find Lee Joon-ik’s movies truly inspirational.

Overall I find this movie really uplifting and suitable for both genders and most age groups. I suggest that all guys should go with their best buds so that they can fist bump and high five after the movie as it’s a movie that really makes you appreciate your friends. *fans self* It makes me so emotional. The transformation of the actors from mid life crisis men to rockstar was natural and totally not cringey; some absolutely fabulous styling from the fashion team. The story was not so much predicable, but more guessable and logical, and certainly far from boring and in fact rather triumphant! Like Baseball movies, you expect them all to go a certain way but of course each movie is different and unique in itself. I personally loved this movie and wanted to watch it again straight away. So I give this movie a:

Daebak Star

Don’t forget that tonight (28 June 2012) is the screening of the last film of the Lee Joon-ik series of the ‘Year of 12 Directors’ programme. All his movies are awesome. And tonight’s screening is FREE at the Apollo Cinema Piccadilly Circus on a first come first serve basis. GO GO GO!!! More fangirling movie reviews to come, because we don’t just fan girl over Kpop :P


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