'Girl Scout' short on comedy, long on realism
By Yang Sung-jin
Published on The Korea Herald: May 28, 2008
Life is tough, especially money-wise, for these four women.
Mi-kyeong (Kim Sun-a) confronts one financial setback after another. Lee-man (Na Mun-hee) barely makes a living working at a store for a meager salary. Bong-sun (Lee Kyung-shil) struggles to find the money for her son`s surgery. Eun-ji (Koh Jun-hee) is saddled with deepening debt.
The women, aged from 20s to 60s, do not need any more troubles given their dire financial conditions, but life will not leave them alone. In fact, an unexpected incident has all of them running, screaming and fighting all the way through the film.
The story development highlights a private cooperative fund, known as "kye" in Korean. This collective installment savings system, still popular among Korean housewives, has one tiny problem - the lack of security.
In general, a single "kye master" manages the collection and management of the funds, and members take turns drawing a large sum of money on a monthly basis. If the kye master turns greedy and takes off with the money, all the other members -- who pay in monthly expecting to get the lump sum later -- end up empty-handed.
Mi-kyeong, Lee-man, and Bong-sun belong to the innocent camp, which means their precious savings are gone. Together with their younger acquaintance Eun-ji, the three women set out to track down beauty parlor owner Hye-ran (Lim Ji-eun), a former kye master who has the temerity to vanish with their money.
So far, so good. As far as realism is concerned, the storyline up to this point is not so different from the reality often documented and reported in the Korean media. A logical jump happens when the four self-styled girl scout members go off on the woman-hunt. They drive their yellow mini-van to the front yard of a cafe in Misari, Gyeonggi Province, a place that the beauty parlor owner is said to frequent.
True to the spirit of girl scouts, the four women set up camp in the front yard of the cafe. They cook, eat and drink as if it were their own backyard. Miraculously, neither the cafe owner nor the police do anything forceful to remove them.
While the girl scouts have a field day, Hye-ran is hatching another plan to line her already bloated pockets. She has a boyfriend, Hong-ki (Park Won-sang), a trickster who scams bundles of money through embezzlement. By Hye-ran`s calculation, Hong-ki`s money can be turned into hers, if he falls into her trap.
Hye-ran`s carefully-hatched scheme, however, is disrupted when the four fearsome women spot Hye-ran at the cafe, leading to a wild chase scene, where bags of money get change hands several times. A hired goon (Lee Jong-dae) also gets involved in the head-spinning dash for cash, creating a complex game of cat and mouse.
But curious moviegoers should not be taken in by the chase-the-money plot should. Although this film is packaged as a comedy and the cast members are fully qualified to evoke laughs, the actual outcome is far from a comedy.
All the four women in the yellow mini-van bellow out their troubles in a fashion that is hardly delightful. Even the baddies seem too serious, adding to unwarranted realism that drags down the tone of the film. Is there anyone who would take a movie titled "Girl Scout" seriously?