Hae-Young Lee's Foxy Festival is a romantic comedy about letting your freak flag fly set to a boom chikka chikka disco porn rhythm. For the most part, it's very funny, and occasionally sweet. But the overall experience suffers because one character is so dramatically out of sync with the cast and the story that he feels like an artifact from another movie entirely.
That would be Ha-Kyun Shin's Jang-Bae, a loutish beat cop impressed with the size of his own member, but oblivious to the fact that it does nothing for his long-suffering girlfriend, Ji-Su (Ji-Won Uhm). This lovely and patient young woman goes to great pains to feed and clean up after this gorilla, but through it all he screams at her, accuses her of infidelity, and generally makes those of us in the audience wish we were dating him so we could collectively kick him to the curb. Shin was the male lead in both Save the Green Planet and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance--both movies that he served very well. Here he's simply exasperating and gets a pretty much unearned turn by the end of the film.
But enough about Jang-Bae. Let's not think overmuch about him when the movie is filled with eccentric, funny, and charming characters beside: there's Sun-Shim (Hye-Jin Shin) a middle-aged mom who discovers that she's an "S" to a quiet talking hardware store owner's (Dong-Il Song) "M." Then, there's her daughter, Ja-Hae (Jin-Hee Baek), a schoolgirl who wants a fishcake vendor (Seung-Bum Ryoo) to notice her. What she doesn't know is that he spends a lot of his time, money, and attention on the lingerie shop, as does Tae Kwon Do instructor Kwang-Rok (Dal-Sul Oh) who's there for entirely different reasons.
Here's where Foxy Festival could have gone off the rails: it could have spent its running time making fun of its cast of characters, leaving them caricatures by the end (like the grating cop). Instead, it has fun with its characters. There's the gradual escalation of the S&M couple from tentative articulation of their interests to full wardrobe transformations; there's the slow revelation that one character is a sometime cross-dresser while another takes solace in a real doll. Their circumstances are odd, but the movie pokes just the right amount of fun before showing them some kindness.
Brightly colored and exuberant, I can't couldn't help but enjoy the movie. While it perhaps faltered on occasion--the boom chikka chikka wore out its welcome, for instance--it was kind to its characters and allowed us the pleasure of letting them find themselves.
Foxy Festival will be screening as part of the 10th annual New York Asian Film Festival on Wednesday, July 6th. You can find out more information at the NYAFF website.