A long wait for a premiere of a film never bodes well, even though it might be because the producers want to avoid the film clashing with the releases of other big productions, or because the progress has been slowed down by a prolonged post-production. The latter especially implies that the producer isn’t sure about the quality of the work, and it happens more often than not. When after a long and delayed process, The Princess and the Matchmaker, directed by Hong Chang-pyo, finally saw the light of day, it surely didn’t please many of the viewers, dividing its audience; however, regardless of the reviews, the film has become the biggest romantic hit since The Beauty Inside, possibly because it has the popular actor Lee Seung-ki in one of the lead roles.
South Korean film industry prides itself on making countless romantic comedies, and loves to place many of them during the Joseon Dynasty rule – the epochal costumes and the court etiquette have a special kind of charm, and such romance films tend to be seen as more serious that their modern-time counterparts. The Princess and the Matchmaker is one of such period romances; it depicts the story of Seo Do-yoon (Lee Seung-ki: A Korean Odyssey TV Drama), who is entrusted with the task of finding a suitable husband candidate for the Princess Song Hwa (Shim Eun-kyung: Psychokinesis, Fabricated City). People believe that if she marries the right man, the rain will come and save them from the drought – this makes for an incredibly trivial and monotonous narrative. The princess herself dreams of a great love, a love she never knew, so she escapes from the palace and goes on a journey to spy on the potential candidates; otherwise, she would meet the chosen one only on the day of her wedding.
The Prince and the Matchmaker‘s unimpressive and superficial narrative might further bore a viewer since the plot of the film is dreadfully predictable. For a romantic comedy, the film is not even all that amusing, while it is also definitely not as serious as the standard sageuk. It does not possess any proper strength apart from a bunch of decent actors (playing flat characters) in stunning costumes, with an exquisite and picturesque cinematography. Also, there is so much unnecessary action in the film that there was not enough time left for a proper development of the relationship even between the two main characters. With a line-up of ‘flower boy’ supporting actors, the only thing there is to be found are eye-candies for its (female) audience.
Overall, The Princess and the Matchmaker is below mediocre. Lee Seung-ki and Shim Eun kyung seemed to have so much potential on paper as actors, but historical conventions and play-it-safe writing did not really allow for their characters to deepen their relationship to any level above that of platonic feelings, confirmed in a flowery meadow with birds, twittering above.
Written by Maggie Gogler
Edited by Sanja Struna
All photos © CJ Entertainment