To many reviewers, cinephiles and parents of impressionable teens, the term ‘sex comedy’ comes (no naughty pun intended) with a large number of inbuilt problems. And they’re not just connected with any moral attitudes; too many seem to have a weak premise, poor story development and a predictable barrage of crass humour and inevitable dumbness. The predominant problems with these sort of films involve the lack of eroticism or humour or both. So a variation on the genre that integrates the sex with the comedy but has something else to offer is most welcome. For Petty Romance also includes a manga (or rather manhwa) creation which involves lots animated action and sex, with a hefty dose of violence thrown in.
Da-rim (Kang-hee Choi) has created the character of Miso, but her story is not a soup opera, although her life seems to be heading that way. Da-rim has family and accommodation problems and, despite the fact her sex advice magazine column seems to be popular even if her copy is derived from secondary sources due to her lack of personal experience, has also lost her job. Also suffering employment woes is Jeong-bae (Seon-gyun Lee), a talented artist who is quickly ditched from his publication due to his lack of story creation abilities. Both are in deep need of self-esteem and, importantly, cash. Something around $100,000 would certainly do. And such a sum just happens to be available to the winner of a contest to create a new adult comic for international publication. So Jeong-bae and Da-rim join forces. With a new take on Da-rim’s knowledge about writing sex-columns and a desire for a good narrative they create a comicbook about a sexually predatory female assassin. But can the two maintain their relationship on a mutually rewarding professional level, especially when they both seem to need a lot of love?
A combination of neat, sweet rom-com with sex, violent anime and kinky absurdities without anything being overtly explicit, Petty Romance is naughty but nice entertainment. This doesn’t fall into the obvious realm of the ‘art film’ but is rather a film about artists. Indeed the animated sections (not to disparage the enjoyable and engaging nature of the live rom-com elements) are a notable addition to the film, extending the creativity of both its main characters. Da-rim’s Miso is seen in a variety of outfits and not just the Luc Besson style female assassin role, but she also shoots pistols from her high-heels and indulges in gratuitous hard sex with guys that may have forearm length appendages. The combination of ideas and set-pieces are what really sets Petty Romance apart – it’s knowingly commercial but also distinctively different. For anyone interested in live action and animated works, Jeong-Hoon-Il Kim’s debut is a wonderful way to mix genres and cultures.
A thoroughly enjoyable rom-com or sex-com with anime action violence and sex, Petty Romance makes for full on entertainment.