New for me
I must have a problem with Kim Taegyoon because I've disliked the two films of his I've seen so far, the previous being the manipulative melodrama A Millionaire's First Love. Like A Millionaire's First Love, this film, First Kiss (a.k.a. Shall We Kiss), has many of the same storytelling problems, lacking in connective tissues, but also suffers from pacing problems. When combined with the sometimes aimless direction and constant mugging by the actors, I found First Kiss to be an annoying and frequently senseless affair.
The woman who is hoping for her first kiss is Song Yeonhwa (Choi Jiwoo), an entertainment news reporter, with a socially awkward disposition. When her boyfriend, whom she was hoping to smooch, decides to break up with her, she goes into a little depression, prone to spacing out and snapping at people. Into this comes the new photographer, the gregarious Han Kyunghyun (An Jaewook), who immediately takes a liking to the prickly Song. But the other female reporter, Kyunghee (Yoo Hyekyung), who is already sleeping with the editor (Lee Kyungyoung), has her sights set on the handsome new guy.
And all this setup might be a fine story if there were any reasonable story logic to drive what happens for the duration of the film. But what First Kiss fails to do is to motivate any of the changes that the characters experience. There is no explanation for why Song softens to Han, but she does. And there is no explanation for why Han suddenly gets upset or pulls away from Song. And that lack of reason for the characters to do what they do pulls the dramatic rug out from underneath everything that they do, essentially depriving the film of any real meaningful development. The characters simply seem to change when it's necessary for the plot and, as the result, the story feels heavily contrived. Plus, it's neither funny nor particularly dramatic.
The story itself might have been hard to bear, but this was compounded by the acting. It seems like every single character is shrill, loud, or otherwise unreal and, consequently, unbelievable, and several of the actors simply mug for the camera much too frequently. When the parody of a horror film inside the film seems more real than the main characters themselves, there is a problem. Of course, that mugging is probably in part a director's problem, who is doing little to make this world believable. Much of the film feels like there is a distinct lack of vision, simply just going along with the characters and occasionally adding in a meaningless directorial flourish. Furthermore, the film simply takes forever to go anywhere, although perhaps it could be said that the film really never does go anywhere.
Being a film from 1997, before the Korean motion picture machine really upgraded its equipment and crew skills, the low production values can be excused, as it looks no worse than similar films made in Korea in the late 1990's. What's amusing is just how dated the film feels, in terms of its late 1990's aesthetics, especially in the fashion and make-up departments, which makes the film feel like it's trying hard to follow the current trends. But even that could have been forgiven if the story itself were more convincingly wrought and much better told. Unfortunately, the ramshackle attempt at a romance film here doesn't get the basics of storytelling together here, which only amplifies its other weaknesses. 4/10.