by Jaime Grijalba.
a.k.a. Wonderful Radio
(South Korea, 120 min)
Pop music. Loved and hated by (I think) equal parts of the population. Those who love it think that a music and some lyrics that you can follow and sing-along, and specially, get repeated to death without any sign of tiredness, is the perfection for any artist to accomplish, and no, no heavy themes nor heavy instruments, please, just go and make a song that makes me want to dance or sing. The people who hate pop music, hate it for the exact same reasons: because it is that and nothing else, these guys usually hate it so much that they just cringe at the mere mention of some artist or the public listening of that kind of music, they abominate what it means and what it stands for either in their political or just philosophical point of view. Well, if you are one of the last kind of people, you’ll just hate this film, because it celebrates singles, pop charts, celebration, industry and all the rest; au contraire, if you are the first kind of people, you may end up liking it quite a lot… but if you’re like me, you’ll be ‘meh’-ing all the way through, because even if I do hate pop music as a stance and majority, sometimes I can’t help but notice how many of these popular songs I actually know and how much value they actually have in my memory and in the memory of others, that I can’t help but look at them with some kind of respect, there is a craft and actual skill in the making of these… of course there’s much more skill, in my opinion, to make a great rock song, but whatever, there is some talent there.
Here’s some info about South Korea… they love pop. That’s all you need to know about this country really, they are filled with pop singers and artists and groups, every two days a new song from a novel young artist comes out and most of them are hits in different levels, just to be forgotten the next year (or sometimes few months… or even worse, days), and that’s how the pop music industry works in S. Korea, they just keep throwing artist to the garbage can, because they know new ones will appear, but what does actually happen to those who end up thrown away like used toys? Well, that’s what ‘Wonderful Radio’ tries to show us, using a former singer from a girl-band called ‘Purple’ (pronounced ‘poporu’ in the movie) that is now a radio host in one of the worst rated shows on air, or so tells us the owner of the conglomerate that also owns Wonderful Radio, where the show airs. And no wonder the show is tanking, the whole thing is boring as hell, we have our protagonist, the former singer, always talking about her former band, always talking about her career that never seems to come afloat again, the show has a rigid structure in which they name their segments “first segment”, “second segment”, as if they didn’t know that the first and most important thing in radio is to feel like a continuum without interruptions, just like a stream of conciousness, because the audience must forget that they are listening to the radio, because it’s something you do while doing something else… most of the time… because I can’t.
Well, besides the fact that the radio show may be boring or whatever, the film is an interesting document on the music industry of this south-east asian country, specially since it manages to capture the concerts, the fans, how they react and how the whole thing is filled with trickery and bad behaving from the artists, the managers and the producers, as well as the owners of commercial conglommerates that unite, between other things, the music dics and the radio industry. Oh, but we all know that these kind of organizations are evil, in fact, it is so well inserted into our minds that corporate is evil, that when the movie starts to go nowhere with its plot, it comes up with a token enemy that has a grudge against our protagonist, just because he’s the evil owner of the disc and the radio company in which she works, and that is just plain weak, when are we going to have a-stereotypical owners of stores… maybe never, but one can dream that maybe some day a crazy director will go on a limb and try to tell us that some corporate people aren’t actually bad, that they don’t go on fancy cars shooting at homeless guys on saturday nights like every other individual with a decent amount of money would do… I mean, that’s what I hear, don’t you? Anyway, the plot, which I hinted at with our female singer protagonist, is that she needs to find a way to boost the listeners of her show or she will, eventually, get axed (now, that, she doesn’t know, that is just something our main corporate evil guy hints at), add to the mix the new producer that actively searches ways to bum her out… but the moment we see them together we know that they will end up having a romance. Ugh.
At least the menace is not war, sickness or something that prevents them from loving each other, but it’s a truly comedic situation that is related to the new segment that our protagonist creates once she met a taxi driver on the way to work. The segment basically consist of common people singing popular songs to someone else that they’d want to hear, but as we want to get our tears rolling out pretty soon, most of the people sing out to their dead relatives in a truly emotionally liberated way (with tears, cries and a broken voice, that doesn’t make it easy to listen), and I’d say that those stories, as sappy and tear-inducing as they are, are quite interesting on their own, but it is something related to her career as a singer that makes it all go down on us, and while it makes us quite confused as an overwritten plot to have our character fall from grace, it still is cleverly constructed. I think that maybe is the tone that is all over the place: sometimes it’s quite serious, and the drama enhances those parts, and I’d say those are the highest points of the film, as most of the characters do play it straight, but there’s just one character, the manager of our singer protagonist (and also an ex-fanatic of Purple, who we see in a flashback as maybe the only male in the audience… creepy choice for a manager) that makes every scene in which he appears a comedy, a goofy comedy filled with silly music and even sound effects, which are totally out of the tone of the film… now that doesn’t make it a good character, and maybe he does deliver the best performance of the whole film.
Anyway, at the end we have a dissapointing climax with many unresolved issues, and even at the 2-hour mark it feels like it should run for another hour, not because you want more, but because you feel so empty afterwards, like an empty experience with some good points, but an overall bland thing. Some people will like it for those same qualities, like people who like pop music, I may just be getting really really tired with these romantic tear-jerkers from Asia, but at least I’m not watching Hollywood’s latest romantic tear-jerker… oh wait, I did see ‘The Lucky One’ (2012)… FUCK!