Apart from award season contenders HAPPY NEW YEAR


 The end of the year is also synonymous with holiday movies. The kind of film that won't be mired in trophies, but if it's successful, the audience's heart will be won. Happy New Year is one of them. A stellar romantic comedy that will fill viewers' hearts with positive feelings.

Set from Christmas Eve to New Year's Eve, the plot centers on Hotel Emros, which brings people from various backgrounds together. The hotel CEO, Yong-jin (Lee Dong-wook), who is obsessed with even numbers, is attracted to Yi-young (Won Jin-a), a contract employee with dreams of becoming a musical actress. The story of the two sounds like romance Kdrama material about love between different classes, about a love that makes one ignore other things (so attracted by Yong-jin to Yi-young, he forgets his obsession with even numbers every time he is together). Cliche, but it works well thanks to the likeable charisma of Lee Dong-wook and Won Jin-a . 

In fact, a series of other stories also minimally modify the formula. The hotel manager, So-jin (Han Ji-min), is not very good at love, but is willing to help Jin-ho (Lee Jin-wook), a visitor who every Saturday attends blind dates at the hotel, even though it always ends in failure. Beaten by failure in the civil service exam and being abandoned by his girlfriend, Jae-yong (Kang Ha-neul) decides to commit suicide on New Year's Day at the Emros Hotel, before finding happiness again, thanks to a chat with Soo-yeon (Lim Yoon-A), who wake him up every morning with a phone call. 

Again, cliché, but unimportant because of the ensemble cast . Such conditions can only arise in countries, where  star power  still plays a major role in the entertainment industry. South Korea is one of them. The audience wants to see the stars, both the makers and the stars, understand the audience's wishes, so that they know very well what kind of scene and performance packaging should appear. 

Han Ji-min is good at handling romantic comedy-style female protagonists who are easily liked, while Kang Ha-neul is able to turn a series of sad events into his character's humorous scene. Yoon-A appeared briefly, only a few minutes in the third round, but in that short time, she defined " star power ". Only her back was visible for a few seconds of her first appearance, and it was enough to make viewers look forward to the moment when the actress's face was finally caught on camera. 

There are still some stories that have a slightly different nuance. Sang-gyu (Jung Jin-young), the hotel concierge, reunites with his first love, Catherine (Lee Hye-young) after 40 years of separation. Plus a bit of mystical/fantasy spice, there is a romance around destiny and true love in their story. There is also a friendship between Yi-kang (Seo Kang-joon) the famous singer and his manager, Sang-hoon (Lee Kwang-soo). Apart from bringing a breath of fresh air between the piles of romance in this film, Kwang-soo's solid acting also contributed to adding to his emotional weight. 

Like the majority of films with a similar narrative style, Happy New Year's stories  seem half-baked, even stitched sloppy. The flaws are almost impossible to avoid, so directing holds the key. The most important thing is not the narrative, but the moment. How stories that are not that strong can contain a romantic and/or touching moment or two ( Love Actually is remembered not for its solid plot, but for the iconic " to me you are perfect ") scene . 

Luckily,  Happy New Year was handled by Kwak Jae-young, who could be credited with resurrecting the popularity of the South Korean romance genre through My Sassy Girl (2001),  The Classic (2003), and Windstruck (2004). As a result, events involving "the union of two people", at least always manage to provoke a smile. Happy New Year is indeed a spectacle full of smiles about welcoming the new year with new hopes. 

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