[This week, we will be covering the the First Annual Korean American Film Festival Los Angeles, which will be taking place at the Korean Cultural Center LA from August 9th through the 11th. For all of our coverage, head here.]
A big part of the reason that Cut was such a failure (aside from basically everything else about it) was its constant reminder that there are better movies that you could be watching. It was constantly showing (or at least discussing) other, higher-quality films like The Searchers, Sherlock Jr., and Citizen Kane, and it demonstrated all-too-clearly just how shoddily made Cut was. Should’ve Kissed isn’t nearly as bad, but it’s got a similar problem.
The problem is that director/writer Jinoh Park really liked Martin Scorsese. Now, I have no problem with this, because I’m a fan of Martin Scorsese as well. But if you’re going to devote two scenes to a character looking in a mirror and saying, “You talkin’ to me?”, you can’t just ride on the coattails of another film’s quality. You need to back it.
Should’ve Kissed doesn’t back it up.
Director: Jinoh Park
Release Date: TBD
Should’ve Kissed doesn’t really have a narrative. Instead, it’s something of a variety show. You get a few songs, some monologues, and a juggling routine. In between these things there is something that perhaps could be referred to as a plot, but I don’t think anyone would defend it as being particularly deep. Instead it’s more of a series of circumstances which bring two entirely unrelated people together, where they then do some more variety show things and eventually something either does or does not happen to them. Honestly, I’m really not quite sure.
I’m trying to figure out if those circumstances, as it were, were intended to be confusing, or if writer/director/star Jinoh Park believed that his screenplay had some sort of narrative flow. Maybe Should’ve Kissed is intended for people who are smarter than me, or at least think they. Maybe I’m supposed to bring together all of the various one-off moments and pull from them a cohesive storyline. I can see where certain things fit together and make it possible to get something more than what I got, but to pretend that it successfully functions as anything more than a series of events would be to give everyone involved far too much credit.
As a variety show, Should’ve Kissed goes from enjoyable to grating pretty regularly. There are four songs sung in the film, and at least three of them are sung to completion. When a movie is only 80 minutes long, that’s a rather significant portion of the runtime. In fact, the entire opening shot of the film is Jun (Jinoh Park) singing “Maybe This Time” from Cabaret. It’s a perfectly competent performance, but the most interesting thing about it is that he is singing a song intended for a female part. It’s also far too long. As are most of the performances, and all of the ones involving Summer (Marina Michelson).
Both Jun and Summer are struggling actors, but Summer seems like a real failure. After realizing in the middle of an audition that she can’t go any further with a scene which may or may not include physical interaction with a person of the opposite gender (it’s kind of amazing how vague Should’ve Kissed manages to be), she goes to the street, where Jun coincidentally happens to be (I don’t know or care why). He goes to comfort her and then they go off and whatever.
During that whatever, she performs a monologue from Goodfellas, but it just made me want to rewatch Goodfellas. I haven’t seen that movie in years, so it was kind of surprising to me that I recognized it at all. I don’t know if it says something about how memorable the dialogue was or how overly long the portion aped by Should’ve Kissed was. It was her singing that really bothered me though. No offense to Marina Michelson, she’s not a very good singer, nor was the song she sing right for her vocal range. It was supposed to be a significant moment (she made a point about not doing that), but it was ruined by not being very good. It wasn’t horrible, but it went on for far too long.
The only really impressive thing that happens in Should’ve Kissed is the juggling performance. Jun and Summer show up at some guy’s house and wake him up so he will juggle for them. I’ve tried juggling a number of times, and it’s really not so easy. I have also seen more impressive jugglers than that guy as well (seen two people juggle chainsaws, for example), but some of the stuff he did was still worth applauding. Most specifically juggling with his face. That was pretty cool, although I think the choice of a profile shot for that scene was a mistake. A shot of the front would have made the intricacies of the act more apparent (and perhaps more interesting as well).
On that note, the film is made up almost entirely of long takes. There are a few cuts here and there, but I feel like the shots shorter than 10 seconds could be counted on one hand and the shots under a minute could be counted on two. Perhaps that’s a slight exaggeration, but if it is then only barely. Cuts are rare, camera motion is rarer, and I think I saw a single shift of focus in the entire film. It’s very static, which probably added to just how long everything felt. Many of the shots are in close-up as well, so you often have nothing to look at but the face of either Jun or Summer. They are the focus of everything, for better or worse, so you spend a lot of times looking at them. This would be less of a problem if they were particularly attractive, but they’re really not. It does lead to some interesting scenes (where much of the action takes place entirely out of focus), but I would have rather seen something else at times. The occasional shots of the New York City skyline weren’t really enough to satiate me.
When it all comes down to it, I just don’t know why Should’ve Kissed exists. Even in movies that I absolutely hate, I can usually see that the director believed s/he was making something for a reason, be that entertainment, a paycheck, or to expound some kind of worldview. Should’ve Kissed is not entertaining, may very well never leave the festival circuit (and won’t do particularly well if it does), and there are no ideas to present. I’ve even read the director’s statement of intent, but it was absolutely meaningless to me, and although I understood what he meant, I didn’t see it as an actual part of the film; it was the aftermath. But that doesn’t count. It’s like if you told an 80 minute joke and didn’t give a punchline.
And that’s kind of what Should’ve Kissed is. It ends in the same sort of irritating vagueness that plagues the rest of it. There’s nothing wrong with a vague ending, but a vague ending that fails to answer any questions raised by an excessively vague film? That’s not so forgivable. Should’ve Kissed is hardly the worst thing ever. It’s just kind of a waste.[Should’ve Kissed will be playing at the Korean Cultural Center in Los Angeles at 7:00 PM on Thursday, August 9th. It will be preceded by a short called Wedding Palace Behind-The-Scenes.]