BY Adrienne Stanley | Feb 19, 2016 10:00 AM EST
Yoo Ah In (Veteran) and Lee Mi Yeon (Reply 1988) lead the star-studded cast of the compelling romantic comedy, "Like for Likes."
Lee Mi Yeon is Kyung Ah, a jaded drama writer who crafts romantic scenes for her eager viewership while maintaining narrow beliefs about love.
The screenwriter is challenged to cast a male lead for her latest project and is daunted when Kim Woo Bin rejects the offer.
Her casting situation becomes even more precarious when Roh Jin Woo, a top actor portrayed by Yoo Ah In, also declines to participate in the K-Drama.
She continues to have run-ins with Jin Woo and it is revealed that he harbors a three-year crush on Kyung Ah, after sleeping with her before entering the military.
Yoo delivers a touching performance as Jin Woo, a role that is a drastic departure from his terrifying portrayal of a spoiled conglomerate heir in the 2015 blockbuster, "Veteran."
The plot of "Like for Likes" takes an interesting turn when Jin Woo discovers that Kyung Ah is the mother of a three-year-old toddler, a child whom he believes could be his.
Jin Woo is provided with some of the most clever lines of the rom-com, as a twentysomething star who maintains progressive views about women and his potential to succeed beyond the spotlight.
"When a man speaks his mind, he is determined, but when a woman does so, she is bossy," said Jin Woo, after Lee departs from the dinner meeting. "Get with the times."
Choi Ji Woo abandons the sweet-natured persona of her "Twenty Again" character to embrace the cold and aloof traits of Ham Joo Ran, a flight attendant who naively falls for a real estate scam.
She is taunted by her co-workers, particularly her supervisor and entertains dreams of starting her own business.
Kim Joo Hyuk (Reply 1988) is Jung Sung Chan, her tenant. After his fiance dumps him, Sung Chan turns towards Facebook to deliver a forlorn message. His post prompts to visit and partake in his drunken revelry with Soo Ho.
"Like for Likes" is not a dark comedy, but the film approaches contemporary Korean relationships from a witty and nuanced angle.
"TV's the problem," said Sung Chan, after Joo Ran admires a flattering photo of Jin Woo. "In real life, boys don't go after cougars. That's just the writers entertaining fantasies."
The statement is ironic and well-placed, considering the age gap between Jin Woo and Kyung Ah, whose interactions reflect a "meta" plot device of art imitating life.
The prevailing "noona" romance or younger man and older woman theme reflect the burgeoning relationship of Joo Ran and Min Ho, a kindhearted physician.
Kang Ha Neul (Twenty) and Esom (Man on High Heels) are provided with a unique storyline that targets younger audiences.
Kang Ha Neul is Lee Soo Ho, a composer who crafts lovelorn songs under the pseudonym Windy Sunny.
He establishes an easy rapport through Facebook messages with Jang Na Yeon, a television producer who works with Kyung Ah, played by Esom.
Na Yeon thinks she knows everything she can about love but discovers that she is as innocent as Soo Ho, as they plunge deeper into their relationship.
As they grow closer, Soo Ho is challenged to reveal a secret that could halt their romance.
"Like for Likes" is a refreshing alternative to Korean comedies that often neglect the feminine perspective, while clearly targeting male viewers or critics.
The film provides a delicious conclusion that is worthy of a well-written Korean drama, as the love lines culminate in stirring scenes that harken to seminal works like "Love Actually."
DramaFever will present a special advanced screening for New York City audiences on February 25, at the AMC Empire theater in Times Square. Tickets for the advanced screening can be purchased directly through DramaFever.
"Like for Likes" premieres in select North American theaters on February 26.
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