Starring: Lee Si-young, Oh Jung-se, Park Yeong-gyu
Director: Lee Won-suk
Running Time: 116 mins
How To Use Guys With Secret Tips is a South Korean film about a young woman struggling with life who stumbles across a self-help video that helps to change her life forever.
This is such a wonderful film. With a simple and fun premise, How To Use Guys With Secret Tips gets pretty much everything about the rom-com genre right, with likable and interesting characters, good humour, pleasantly cheesy romance, and a lively, energetic vibe throughout, all of which makes for a thoroughly enjoyable watch that had me smiling from beginning to end.
Let’s start off with the story, which, although in some regards one of the film’s occasionally weaker elements, is an excellent example of how to make a genuinely fun romantic comedy. Taking a premise at times reminiscent of the likes of Bridget Jones’ Diary, and sprinkling it with a little bit of magic, this film manages to combine cheesy, easy-going movie fun with strong and interesting character development throughout.
I won’t say that the film is a groundbreaking foray into the genre, and the majority of its main beats are the sort that you’ve seen before, but as the film takes off from a footing that never really takes itself too seriously, with our leading lady encountering a mysterious and magical VHS tape that promises to change her life, it all works brilliantly to give you a good time.
On top of that, though, thanks to two excellent lead performances from Lee Si-young and Oh Jung-se, as well as strong and surprisingly deep writing, the characters here are far more interesting than is often the case in the rom-com genre. Again, the core tropes are still there, but what this film does so well is cleverly weave the romantic story in with the characters’ professional lives, as a result making their jobs just as interesting as the romance, and that’s nowhere near as predictable and generic to follow.
Lee and Oh are a lot of fun throughout, and while they have great chemistry that makes their will-they-won’t-they relationship work really well, they both give brilliant individual turns too. Lee, in particular, manages to carry off the rags-to-riches story in far more convincing fashion than most, retaining her innate likability all the way through the story, while still changing dramatically along with her character, while Oh does brilliantly with a character that often goes the opposite way.
Of course, with the excellent performances and great writing, the film is a properly enjoyable watch, but its crowning glory is its energetic and vibrant sense of humour, as well as the eye-popping directing and editing that make everything such a pleasure to watch.
Either from the trailer or even the poster, you may think that this is that sort of rom-com with rapid editing that blends the real world with the inner monologue of our leading lady. And, in some respects, you’d be right, but there is actually more to the film’s style than just that, most notably as it brilliantly weaves real-world sequences in with instructional clips from the mysterious video at the centre of the story, which is full of brilliant laughs.
As a result, as well as being a simply funny film, the movie has an energy and imaginative vibrancy that make it an absolute delight from beginning to end, and despite having a story that you’ve largely seen before, its ingenuity, strong writing, interesting characters and great performances all add up to make for a thoroughly wonderful watch, and that’s why I’m giving How To Use Guys With Secret Tips a 7.9 overall.