Busan 2017 Review: METHOD Gets Booed Off the Stage
Director Bang Eun-jin's fourth feature film is her least impressive to date. Park Sung-woong and Oh Seung-hoon star.
Bang Eun-jin scales things down significantly for her fourth work, the theater world forbidden love story Method. Lacking any chemistry between its leads, this facile mirrored narrative proves to be Bang's least impressive work as it trudges through thinly drawn and tired themes.
Veteran stage performer Jae-ha signs up for the dual protagonist stage play 'Unchain', along with youth idol Young-woo, who is taking on his first acting role. Young-woo's bored and arrogant behavior quickly gets on Jae-ha nerves but after a rocky start he sees a serious side to the neophyte actor and tries to mentor him, as he brings him into his home, where he lives with his girlfriend Hee-won. 'Unchain' features a gay relationship and when life begins to imitate art, Jae-ho tries to pull back, but this only the drives the determined Young-woo even more.
Long before debuting as a director with Princess Aurora, Bang was one of Korea's top actresses, so it's a shame to relate that Method is such a simplistic exploration of the theater world and particularly the acting trade. The performances that are being rehearsed in the film's buildup are very much of the all or nothing variety, and have everything to do with method acting. Since it's clear from the outset that the film will mirror the play, nothing is unexpected and when the climax comes around, which is the first night of the play, no matter how much Bang tries to wrong-foot her audience, few will be surprised by the outcome.
Park Sung-woong, the rugged actor known for his character roles (New World, The Shameless) who has also tasted the stage, infuses Jae-ha with confidence and intensity but when his character's sexual confusion manifests itself, that's just what it looks like, as Park begins to look a little lost in the role. New actor Oh Seung-hoon has trouble standing out as the young Young-woo, flip-flopping through many different moods, though he attacks them all seriously. Yet the greatest issue for each is that they're only convincing together as rivals early on, but not at all as romantic partners.
Yoon Seung-a is fine in a role that amounts to little more than set dressing, as her unexpected presence at several points in the narrative is merely a tool to exacerbate Jae-ha's guilt. In fact, Yoon performed alongside Park two years ago, when she played victim to his murderer in The Deal. Guess things haven't really changed since then.
The fact that Bang's latest is a queer film is almost irrelevant as it feels like a cheap trick to add something to a rote, forbidden-love narrative. Bang retains some of the production values of her earlier work, which also include Perfect Number and Way Back Home, as the film is polished if unremarkable, but even at 82 minutes Method will have most wanting to make a quick exit before curtain call.