"All love songs are so obvious. Love itself is obvious: You meet, love, part ways, get hurt... then meet again...
I bet some people just get married because they get tired of repeating those steps..."
During the course of a female friend's leaving party, musician Hyeon-seung (Ji Seong) is utterly devastated to learn that his ex-girlfriend So-yeon (Shin So-yul) - with whom he is still deeply in love - has a new boyfriend; just 83 days since she dumped Hyeon-seung following a seven-year relationship. After drowning his sorrows in far too much alcohol and causing a major scene at the party, Hyeon-seung staggers home and collapses in bed, but as drunken dreams of the sex he used to have with So-yeon fill his fevered mind, he is rudely awakened by the ring of his cell phone. Almost before he can say a word to the unknown female caller, she tells him not to speak and proceeds to have phone sex with him. Unable to restrain himself from 'getting involved', if you will, Hyeon-seung willingly reciprocates but as the aural sexual dalliance of the two concludes, the caller - who thought she had been phoning her boyfriend - discovers that she dialled the wrong number, calls Hyeon-seung a pervert and angrily hangs up.
The next night brings yet more So-yeon related heartache for Hyeon-seung and, with no-one to turn or talk to, in desperation he dials the number of the 'phone sex girl', lingerie designer Yoon-jeong (Kim Ah-joong). Though their conversation begins as an argument as to who is a pervert and who is a nymphomaniac, slowly the two begin to properly talk about themselves, their lives and each other; finding in the process an instant connection, a sympathetic ear and, in Hyeon-seung's case, a shoulder to cry on.
Their frank and increasingly open cell phone discussions continue over the next days and weeks, with the two 'phone sex partners' becoming ever more involved in each other's lives; inevitably leading to the moment when one of them raises the question of whether, perhaps, it's finally time for them to meet face-to-face...
I've used the word "frank" once already in the synopsis section of this review but in one sense at least that description sums up not only the narrative discussions of sex, relationships and the sexual act that feature throughout My P.S. Partner but also speaks of its utter inherence to relationships - young and old - as well as its importance to male and female alike. Such a statement standing as the opening salvo in a dissection of a Korean romantic comedy is instantly likely to bring thoughts of Wet Dreams, My Wife Got Married and/or The Art of Seduction to the mind of many Korean film aficionados but while there are certainly comparisons and contrasts to be made on that front, something much deeper and, to my mind, far more important lies at the very core of My P.S. Partner relating to one of the uttermost classic, and rightly famous, Korean Cinema rom coms of all time:
Way back in 2001, Kwak Jae-young's deeply funny, moving and groundbreaking My Sassy Girl
went a fair way towards redefining depictions of women, relationships and love not only in Korean romantic comedy but also Korean cinema as a whole, with writer Kim Ho-sik's detailing of his tumultuous relationship with, and ultimately love for, his violent, abusive - some might even say psychopathic - girlfriend hiding a broken heart speaking to young adults in Korea in a way no previous film had at a time when women considered to be approaching, or at, traditional marital age were increasingly feeling not only a desire but also a deep-seated need to step away from long-held social conventions requiring them to see marriage as their ultimate - and almost only - goal and subsequently sacrifice their own hopes and dreams for those of their husbands and families; their increasingly autonomous personas allowing them to express themselves as individuals and (gradually) sexual beings in their own right.
While the aforementioned The Art of Seduction etc can largely be thought of as the gradual extrapolation of these ideas in tandem with the changing place of women in society and the (slow) progressive relaxing of attitudes to sexuality, My P.S. Partner, personally speaking, feels less of a further extension and more an positive watershed moment in the Korean romantic comedy genre; its relevance to Korean Cinema today and its narrative bravery within an inherently commercial genre speaking far more of the importance My Sassy Girl came to have on, and subsequent to, its release.
I will concede that the sexuality present in My P.S. Partner's narrative, themes and imagery (more on this later, too) would seem to set it at polar opposites to the noticeable chastity of the unnamed heroine in My Sassy Girl and from an outside point of view it would appear to have far more in common with later somewhat sexually-charged rom coms but even there differences abound; to my mind resolutely stating that My P.S. Partner is a rewriting of romantic comedy sexual content rules to a far greater extent that simply being 'more of the same'.
For example, the sexuality of Wet Dreams brings with it a (male) nostalgia for youth/adolescence and its sexual content is largely imagined - as is largely the case with pubescent teenagers - and the adult nature of both My Wife Got Married and The Art of Seduction is for the most part referenced rather than shown; whereas from the very outset of My P.S. Partner, the adult nature of proceedings is set right in viewers' laps, so to speak:
In the opening minutes of My P.S Partner we see Hyeon-seung, So-yeon and their friends (male and female) discussing the difference of Asian and Western male genitalia; when Hyeon-seung dreams of So-yeon it is complete with graphic female nudity and unabashed instructions relating to what So-yeon wants him to do to and for her; when Hyeon-seung has his first phone sex encounter with Yoon-jeong he is seen (albeit just out of camera view) to get physically 'involved'; and throughout his and Yoon-jeong's burgeoning relationship their sexual discussions would likely make your mother blush - Yoon-jeong's claim that So-yeon doesn't like oral sex because she "hasn't started appreciating the taste"; Yoon-jeong's noting that she prefers not have her face ejaculated on because it feels like being "covered in snot"; Yoon-jeong's sister talking of the importance of keeping her 'vajayjay' happy; the repeated discussion by Hyeon-seung of what panties Yoon-jeong is wearing (and what's inside them) etc etc - all of which combines to resoundly bring me back to my original assertion that My P.S. Partner is a brave and groundbreaking romantic comedy with an importance that should not be overlooked.
As if all that wasn't enough, My P.S. Partner's overall storyline is 'classic Korean rom com' to the nth degree: The couple meet by chance; get closer over time; fall in love; and just as it seems they're destined to be together forever, something draws itself up and threatens to tear all they've hoped for and dreamed of apart - leading ultimately to the requisite Korean melodramatic elements playing their necessary part (again bringing to mind the overall arc of numerous classic Korean films, including - once again - My Sassy Girl combined with the narrative originality; laugh-out-loud humour; and dialogue intelligence of films such as Castaway on the Moon.
In the specific case of My P.S. Partner, these all add to everything written above to make this film as classic, as thoroughly engaging and even as unmissable as any romantic comedy in the last few years.
And before we leave the discussion of the frank and overt sexuality present throughout the film: The attempted dissection above, though I feel it is a vital part of the review, does bring with it a danger to those who have yet to see this wonderful movie that they'll perhaps assume My P.S. Partner is sexual content for sexual content's sake and simply used to stand alongside Western cinema's graphic content. If that is your fear, allow me here and now to dismiss it and ease your mind, forthwith. For, while the film is without question adult-oriented from start to finish (My P.S. Partner received a 19 certification), that fact almost belies its noticeable warmth and the huge amount of genuine, almost perfect and deeply funny humour peppered throughout its running time; even somehow adding a feeling of innocence along the way... and that really is an accolade for a narrative so inherently sexual that also has a great deal to say beneath the surface about changing attitudes to sex and cinematic sexual depictions in Korean society.
Over the past few years, the number of fairly sexually explicit Korean films appearing has undoubtedly increased as has the level of the graphic adult imagery they contain; in parallel with Korean society's acceptance of them. In fact, on a number of occasions films have even been marketed as 'erotic' even though some contain next to no note-worthy references to sex or sexuality; I assume in an effort to make those films appear more sellable and/or controversial (sex sells, or so I hear). It could be said that CJ Entertainment's green-lighting of a film with a narrative like that of My P.S. Partner is a further attempt to cash in on this trend but if that is indeed the case I can't help but feel that that is just the tip of the iceberg in the company's decision-making process. Ultimately as far as I'm concerned, CJ Entertainment should be commended for backing a film that is at the same time brave and groundbreaking for the genre whle feeling comfortable and familiar; a film realised by a director who knew exactly how to achieve what he set out to (regardless of My P.S. Partner only being his sophomore film) and featuring altogether to-die-for cast performances with intelligent and punchy dialogue spoken by deeply engaging characters each of whom elicit audience empathy with ease.
As a final note, no review of My P.S. Partner would be complete without mention of a song forming the naughty linchpin of the entire film. 'The Panty Song', as it has since become known all over the internet, is sung once in its incredibly funny rude version by Hyeon-seung towards the culmination of the film and ever-so slightly later in a cleaner incarnation (entitled 'Show Me Your Heart') by Yoon-jeong; her rendition concluding the story as perfectly as you could ever have hoped.
‘My P.S. Partner’ is as warmly romantic as any love story of recent years, as genuinely funny as almost any comedy you care to mention, and as sexy (and naughty) as any real-life relationship should be; all the while managing to be bravely frank to the point of groundbreaking in concept and narrative at the same time as feeling comfortably genre-familiar. In short, My P.S. Partner is the romantic comedy of 2012, period.
Ji Seong, Kim Ah-joong, Shin So-yul, Kang Kyeong-joon
'My P.S. Partner' (aka: Whatcha Wearin'?) official trailer (with English Subtitles):