REVIEW: ‘Sweet & Sour’ Is An Embarassing Rom-Com

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Sweet & Sour

Lee Gye-byeok’s romantic comedy Sweet & Sour, which just arrived on Netflix, isn’t deep, impactful, or even half as smart as it thinks it is. It’s a movie about the complexities of relationships whose embarrassing misogynistic tones make it borderline unwatchable.

Sweet & Sour starts as young dumb Hyeok is admitted into the hospital due to hepatitis, where he quickly falls in love with his lovely nurse Da-eun (Chae Soo-bin). Hyeok does everything to catch the eye of Da-eun, and soon starts to behave like a creep by following her around the hospital, dropping her flirty messages, and trying to smoke to look cool. The problem is that director Gye-byeok tries to sell this conduct as being sweet and romantic

After a bunch of flirting and some weird interactions, a visibly sad Da-eun invites awkward Hyeok home to keep her company. The first thing he does is touch her breasts. Yet, he’s rewarded with a kiss the next morning (which he tries to turn into a french kiss), and eventually a relationship. Once again, the director tries to portray these acts as innocent comedic bits. You see, Hyeok is plump which, according to the screenplay, automatically makes him inept at interacting with women and therefore, should be excused for his alarming actions. It’s distressing the little awareness the script has of these misogynistic issues.

When Hyeok promises to lose weight, things get shaken up and the film starts to explore the relationship between Da-eun and a slim and very handsome Hyeok (Jang Ki-yong). This is when Sweet & Sour settles into a standard rom-com in which two characters try to keep the love going despite the difficult circumstances surrounding them.

Hyeok accepts a new job in Seoul, forcing him to travel a lengthy distance every day to get to the office. Meanwhile, Da-eun’s shifts become quite grueling. The lack of time together transforms their courtship into a long-distance challenge that rapidly takes its toll on their personal feelings for each other. 

Despite the physical difference in the Hyeok character, the unpleasant behavior is still there. He is selfish, doesn’t listen to Da-eun, and blames her for his own faults; it’s a parade of microaggressions and blatant verbal violence. To complicate the situation, Hyeok starts to fall in love with his new coworker Bo-yeong (Krystal Jung), but not before we are subjected to a series of scenes in which she is painted as a rude, clumsy, and dirty woman trying to get all the attention to herself, only to be humiliated and eventually rescued by the man, Hyeok. 

The movie does a solid job of portraying the difficulties of maintaining a long-distance relationship and the ways a rigorous job can hurt your personal life. There’s authenticity in certain scenarios that show how bad it is to put work before your emotions. Unfortunately, Sweet & Sour goes too far by trying to justify the casual misogyny of the main character with his heavy workload.

The cast is not at fault for the weak script. Chae Soo-bin and Jang Ki-yong deliver good performances through which we feel the exhaustion of the everyday grind that their characters experience. Krystal Jung is funny and charming, but her character ends up being just a weak excuse.

There’s a big twist right in the third act followed by a big exposition dump that might surprise you — or make your eyes roll. Either way, this spark of creativity is not enough to save Sweet & Sour from its many faults which, besides the sexism, include highly unlikeable characters, comedy that doesn’t land, a forgettable score, and a by-the-numbers script.

Sweet & Sour is available streaming exclusively on Netflix.

 

Sweet & Sour
  • 3/10
    Rating - 3/10
3/10

TL;DR

There’s a big twist right in the third act followed by a big exposition dump that might surprise you — or make your eyes roll. Either way, this spark of creativity is not enough to save Sweet & Sour from its many faults which, besides the sexism, include highly unlikeable characters, comedy that doesn’t land, a forgettable score, and a by-the-numbers script.