If you’ve been around the blog for a bit, you’d likely know that I’m generally not one to check out remake after remake of classic shows. Which means that I’m far from this movie’s target audience, since this is the nth remake of Mischievous Kiss. The thing is, though, late last year, I happened to catch the trailer of Fall In Love At First Kiss 2019, and whaddya know, I actually wanted to check this out, and even made a mental note to look out for it, after its release in February 2019.
Basically, I was drawn to how cute and sunny the trailer looked, plus the fact that this comes from Frankie Chen, the director of Our Times, a movie that I loved and watched something like 2.5 times on three different flights. I was also drawn to the fact that this stars Darren Wang, whose bad-boy-with-a-warm-heart character I’d really enjoyed in Our Times as well.
So, did this meet my expectations in bringing back all of the feels? Let’s dive in to find out.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
If Wikipedia is to be believed, this is the whopping 12th live-action thing that’s come out of the Mischievous Kiss franchise, if you count both dramas and movies. Wowza. This is a well-loved story alright.
For those who are new to the story, essentially, Ditzy Warm Girl nurses a huge crush on Geeenius Cold Guy, and eventually wins his heart, by wearing her heart on her sleeve.
MY GENERAL IMPRESSIONS OF THE REST OF THE FRANCHISE
I’ve seen only two other versions of this story, starting with 2010’s Playful Kiss coming out of Korea, and then 2013’s Mischievous Kiss: Love in Tokyo, coming out of Japan. Although I did go through a phase where I really liked Playful Kiss (not when I first watched it, but later, upon a subsequent rewatch), I generally am not a die-hard fan of this story.
Overall, I find Genius Cold Guy too prickly and disagreeable for my taste, and I also find Ditzy Warm Girl a bit too much of a pushover. Which is also why I much prefer China’s very loose adaptation A Love So Beautiful (it’s more like ALSB’s writer used Mischievous Kiss as tangential inspiration, coz a strict remake ALSB is not), coz he’s not so cold, and she’s not such a pushover. What can I say? I’ve come to favor healthier relationship dynamics more and more, of late.
I guess that doesn’t put me in the best position to enjoy this story, given my discomfort with this franchise’s preferred relationship dynamic. That said, I do think that if you really love this franchise and have no issues with how the relationship dynamic is portrayed, then you’re much more likely to love this one.
STUFF THAT DIDN’T WORK IN SHOW’S FAVOR
Not counting the cold vs. warm relationship dynamics that I mentioned above – coz Show can’t help it; this is built into its ancestral DNA, so to speak – these are the things that I felt didn’t do Show any favors.
1. Limited screen time. Because this is a movie and not a drama, the relationship development between our OTP (Darren Wang and Jelly Lin) is forced into a highlight reel sort of format. While Show manages this fairly well, the big relationship milestones did feel rather sudden to me, when I got to them.
2. The acting leans bad. The general acting delivery is in the OTT manhwa-esque style that Taiwan seems to favor, which wouldn’t be such a problem if the cast had a stronger ability to deliver.
Between our leads, I found Jelly Lin rather too exaggerated at times, but relatively speaking, I thought she did better than Darren Wang, who just doesn’t seem to fit into the skin of a geeenius very well, though not for lack of trying. One basic thing that bothered me, is that Darren’s way of speaking is a touch halting, as if it’s effortful for him to get the words out of his mouth. This is not something that I could buy from a supposed genius, to be brutally honest. On top of that, Darren’s range of expression in this movie seems quite limited, and that led me to feel that he was rather stiff, overall.
The worst offender, though, is the mother of our male lead, played by Christy Chung. Granted, Christy was born in Canada and only learned Mandarin as a third or fourth or even fifth language, so it’s understandable that her delivery of the language isn’t very natural at all. But, when that’s coupled with her very bad comic timing and her OTT manhwa style falling flat, it all adds up to Very Bad Indeed. Not gonna lie; I cringed through pretty much all of her scenes. 😛
3. The first half is harder to watch than the second half. Partly because our male lead is very cold and prickly towards our female lead, particularly in the earlier stretch of our story, and partly because of the other factors at play, namely, the not-very-organic plot development, and the not-great acting, I found the first half of the movie pretty hard going. I kept waiting for the feels to hit, but to be honest, they weren’t forthcoming, at least in the first half. I almost chose to drop out at the halfway point, but decided to hang in there just to see how Show would choose to resolve this story. This definitely didn’t work in Show’s favor.
STUFF THAT DID WORK IN SHOW’S FAVOR
1. Stuff looks pretty. From the sets to the sunny Spring palette, everything looks warm and inviting, with a hint of technicolor to make everything pop extra. This made our story world feel hyper-real, which I found fitting for this show.
2. The music is pleasant. One thing that I’ve learned from blogging about shows, is that music can play a huge part in lifting a mediocre, just-ok moment to make it feel like something a lot more momentous. The music in this show is easy on the ears, and made everything feel cheerful and breezy, and heart-tuggingly poignant in turn. That helped.
3. Our female lead Xiangqin is rather likable. Despite my reservations about parts of Jelly Lin’s delivery, I must admit that generally speaking, our female lead Xiangqin does come across as quite likable. Her never-say-die attitude, and her forgiving nature were definite pluses, in my books.
4. There are some sweet moments. Even though our male lead spends much of our screen time being curt to our female lead, there are some more melty, more squee-worthy OTP moments that helped to sweeten the watch. Yes, sometimes the set-up doesn’t feel organic, and yes, the acting isn’t the best, but Darren Wang does smolder very nicely, and that helped to amp up any romantic interactions between our OTP.
THOUGHTS ON THE ENDING [SPOILERS]
There are definitely some details that don’t make sense to me in the ending, but.. that is probably fairly in keeping with the rest of the franchise. Zhishu’s turnaround felt rather sudden to me, as did his angst about why Xiangqin didn’t ask him about his relationship with Shahui (Cai Siyun).
Still, I appreciate this iteration’s take on how our male lead’s feelings are revealed. I thought the idea of him communicating with Xiangqin via SNS quite fresh and apt for the times, and the detail, of him setting certain posts to be visible only to her, quite clever. Given Xiangqin’s unusually high level of ditziness, I found it believable that she wouldn’t realize that the posts she’d been looking at, weren’t set for public consumption.
I also rather liked the full circle that the writers choose for the love confession, where Zhishu basically invites Xiangqin back to their high school hall, where she’d first heard him deliver a speech, so that she can now hear him deliver, well, not a love confession in the strictest sense, but a confirmation of their mutual feelings, and a marriage proposal.
The intersplicing of all of Zhishu’s softer reactions to Xiangqin over all this time was really nice to see, and everything finally felt more balanced to me, in terms of this OTP connection.
All in all, Show ends on a sweet and surprisingly satisfying note, considering how I’d almost dropped out at its mid-point. That’s.. not bad at all, I’d say.
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Rough around the edges, and really quite ungainly in certain aspects of its execution, but not without its sweet moments.
FINAL GRADE: C++