Thursday, March 6, 2014

Daytime Drinking with the Uncool Cat

We have all had those days. From the moment you wake up on the wrong side of the bed to when you eventually hide under the covers to go to sleep, absolutely nothing seems to go right. Makes for a miserable day when it happens to you, but when it happens to someone else? Entirely different story. Pure hilarity!

A lot of movies have taken this "from bad to worse" concept and used it to tremendous effect.  From After Hours to Meet the Parents, it's very entertaining to watch some poor sap who keeps getting deeper and deeper into trouble that he does not necessarily bring on himself. It usually works better if it's a nice guy too. If it's a jerk, it's just the universe giving him his comeuppance. Nice guy though? We can laugh and relate to his rotten luck.

Young-seok Noh's low budget 2009 feature, Daytime Drinking, not only fits comfortably into this sub-genre of comedy, but stands as one of the better examples of it. It is very funny, but has a subdued, quiet tone that adds to the realism and the audience's connection with the put upon lead, who has had way too many black cats cross his path.

The film starts, suitably enough, in a bar, with the protagonist, Hyeok-jin (Sam-dong Song) moping while his 3 friends get their drunk on. You see, Hyeok-jin is still heartbroken after his girlfriend has dumped him. However, his friends are having a jolly good time. Not wanting the fun to stop, they all agree to continue their drinking binge at a remote guest house the following day, where there is a fair and lots of good food and booze. They will meet up after the lengthy trip and party hardy. And who knows, it might cheer Hyeok-jin up.  Reluctantly, Hyeok-jin agrees to go, though it's easy to see his heart isn't in it. And after it fades to the title card, the fun begins.

The next day when Hyeok-jin arrives by bus, the town is seemingly abandoned. And cold. Really cold. It soon comes to light that his friends have entirely forgotten their drunken promise and now Hyeok-jin is stuck in this barren town with little to do. What follows is a cavalcade of bad decisions and worse luck.

Sam-dong Song is great as the stranded tourist. He has just the right amount of humility as his attempts to make the best of his weekend are constantly thwarted. But it is quite endearing when he struggles on, though nothing seems to be going his way. He remains relate able, and the audience never turns against him as he stumbles into another bad situation. One great scene has Song getting on an empty bus and a very "flighty" woman sits directly next to him and begins to engage him in conversation. A conversation that he definitely has no interest in at all. So, being polite, he apologizes and says he needs to get some "shut eye". Her reaction is something that he could have never expected. And that's not the end of it either. His bad decisions always come back to bite him on the ass. And he was trying to be polite! Heck, I remember one time when I was on a long bus ride and someone wanted to talk, and I actually made the excuse that I really wanted to read my book because I didn't want to pretend to sleep. I felt bad, but boy, I wasn't raked through the coals like poor Hyeok-jin.
Another element that plays heavily into Hyeok-jin's weekend is the Korean tradition of drinking. Throughout his misery it seems as if he is nursing a constant hangover as whoever he meets politely demands he get drunk with them. And anyone who has gotten hammered during daytime hours can usually tell you, it seldom is very much fun. And he is in this condition as things go downhill. Noh makes the great decision to never have Hyeok-jin's misfortunes seem like anything insurmountable, but just numerous moderate inconveniences. Until things get a little too out of hand. Yet another thing that makes the film more realistic.

There is so much to love about this unassuming flick. The low budget and snowy setting really add to the film's atmosphere, and every supporting character is wonderfully bizarre. The emotion behind it seems sincere and can be seen as more than the simple story of poor Hyeok-jin, but of life itself. The final moment in this will leave most of the audience chuckling, but should also make them think about what they could potentially do in everyday life. As the saying goes, without risk, there's no reward. And Daytime Drinking is certainly a very rewarding experience.
Make or Break: The scene where Hyeok-jin gets drunk in the bus stop with his beautiful neighbour from the guesthouse. Not only does it come to a very funny conclusion, but it sets off his weekend.

MVT: Young-seok Noh. WIthout a lot of resources he has crafted a film that deservedly gained international attention and he is considered one of the filmmakers responsible for the new era of independent films in South Korea. And as a side note, his follow up, Intruders, hits many of the same themes and events, and proves that he is far from a one hit wonder.

Score: 9 

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