MOVIE CLUB REVIEW: Top Star
Zombie: Hey everyone! Welcome to the Top Star movie club! Tanya, Unnichan and I are ready to dive into this movie, so let’s get to it! [Warning: Spoilers ahead for those who haven’t watched the film!] So what did you two think of Top Star? Was it anything like what you were expecting? Better? Worse?
Unnichan: In a word? No. I was looking for a much faster paced, darker film. I wasn’t disappointed though. My expectations weren’t as such for me to form any solid opinions or biases before I turned it on… You know, with the exception of Uhm Tae Woong, and all.
Tanya: I think the film actually held a pretty good pace,, but the plot was pretty predictable. From the trailer I was definitely expecting darker themes to emerge, similar to Rough Play, but it never happened. At least they kept the characters interesting so it didn’t seem like the film drug on forever.
Zombie: I had no preconceived notions about this one, I didn’t even know what it was about when I started watching it so I just kind of went with things as they came but it did feel slow to me. It took an entire hour before Tae Shik really let his dark side out and even then, he only let loose for a few minutes and then he was back to the docile, submissive man he’d been at the beginning. I guess I was hoping for something more than that, once I knew where the story was headed. I mean if a guy’s going to ruin his life, he should really ruin it, not just kinda mess it up for a bit and then move on.
Unnichan: As a rule I don’t watch trailers or read much synopsis on anything I’m going to watch so I don’t cloud my mind with ideas, so I think the only thing I saw was a brief casting notice and a rough guide along with them showing up for BIFF last year. But with the initial posters, it gave the vibe there’d be more. I loved how they made the comparison between Tae Shik and Kase Ryo, they even modeled his look and character expression after his performances. However, I still find both Tae Shik and Won Joon to be interesting characters. Not extremely complex but interesting. For, I found myself questioning them both early on, and not truly deciding how I felt about either, until long after they went their separate ways.
Tanya: Their characters, although they had their moments, were actually extremely balanced, which is what made it hard for me to decide who the bad guy was. I felt like every character had his or her place, but the one I didn’t get was his former roommate turned manager. I still have no clue why he was even a factor in the movie. He was just annoying honestly.
Zombie: He was the Jiminy Cricket of this movie, Tae Shik’s conscious. He could see the path his friend was taking and he tried to talk him out of all his crazy but in the end, it didn’t do much good. At least his announcement about moving to Canada finally smacked some sense into Tae Shik’s rather oversized head. Kinda brings to mind the lyrics to “Big Yellow Taxi” with the whole “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone…” Tae Shik totally lost sight of all that he’d gained and it wasn’t until it disappeared completely that he realized just how far he’d gone.
Tanya: Does anyone have any scenes that they liked or disliked in particular? I could have done without the whole fight in the bathroom during Mi Na’s birthday celebration, but I guess the confrontation had to come to a head at some point… It wasn’t the fight itself that I hated, rather the setting in which it ended up happening.
Zombie: That fight was the pivotal moment of the entire movie! Without that there would have been no motivation for Tae Shik to step over the line and provide the fuel for Won Joon’s scandal. Without that, Won Joon wouldn’t have committed suicide and well… We all know where the story goes from there. Let’s just say, that bathroom fight was essential. Painful, but essential.
Unnichan: I’d say so. It was the scene I’d been waiting for personally. I needed something more from Won Joon, something that Choi Kang Chul would call “real.” It’s not that I felt that what we saw from him was always facade or bravado but it felt lifeless or hollow in many ways. And with that moment, I was able to grab ahold of something. It wasn’t the violence per se, but the emotion and motivation behind it, that sense of betrayal and irrelevance, coupled with his own finiteness, was brought forth in that moment for me.
Tanya: I do think Tae Shik threatening the cameraman to get the footage from the end of his debut drama was a big thing. It was the first time we got to see him snap and witness the level of crazy he was capable of, so all of the underlying evil was always there. It’s not every day that people smash off their casts and re-break their own arms.
Zombie: That’s the moment that really made me cringe and not just because we saw Tae Shik’s arm bend in a funny way. (Yuck!) It was Tae Shik’s fury that really put me off, mostly because I knew that little outburst of his was an indicator of things to come. I really hate watching people throw away their lives for something as finite as fame and fortune and I knew that was exactly what Tae Shik would end up doing. It made me sad.
Unnichan: Like you said earlier, I kind of wanted it all, the rock bottom but that moment did jolt me. And we only got random bursts of that until the film shoot came about. However, once we got there, I needed someone to slap some sense into him because I was over the crazy. For some reason, I never felt the transition with him. Maybe it was the time jump? We knew it was coming, for we knew he was desperate; he wanted the life, but when he was bashed for being a bad actor and actually appeared concerned about that fact, I paused. ‘Cause why should he care? I mean, really care. It never felt like I got to a point where I understood what made Tae Shik tick. But I did get the full picture of what creates, sustains and transcends as a “top star.” And Tae Shik wasn’t it.
Tanya: That entire exchange with that director calling him out and basically saying he just needed his body to fill space in the film really seemed to affect Tae Shik. And rightly so, honestly. He was trying hard at that point but I feel that definitely lent to him turning into the end product.. But like Unnichan said, he never really hit the top or the bottom entirely, so I’m not so sure.
Zombie: I think that’s what has me on the fence about this movie, I can’t really say, one way or the other, that it’s good or bad because I could never make up my mind about the main character. He was kinda good and then he turned mostly sorta bad but then he went back to being sorta good so I never had a chance to either really love him or really hate him. Being stuck in the middle is such a horrible place to be! Had Tae Shik gone totally over the edge, I would have at least been able to feel something for him but as it is, he and this movie are just kinda “meh”.
Unnichan: I get that. I liked the film after further reflection, because I see that Tae Shik is like us all. That we all have something ugly within us. Something that can creep out and bite others, that we can buy into and let control us. We all don’t go to that edge. That’s what made he and Won Joon so different, yet so very similar. But for movie-goers and thriller lovers (like myself), that’s not what we want. We want to taste the bitterness of a cautionary tale and walk away with strong emotions about themes and purpose. Not get up and say, “Oh ok. Thanks Director Dude.”
Zombie: Right? I guess this was one of those films that was really meant to cause all of us to step back and reflect on our own lives, to force us to compare ourselves to these characters and ask ourselves if we aren’t just as bad, in our own ways. It’s kind of a lot to deal with, when you think about it but I suppose it’s nice to have those little nudges in our conscious every now and then, forcing us to reflect on our own behavior. So, any final thoughts before we wrap this up? Would you recommend this film to others?
Tanya: I’m going to say yes because it wasn’t a bad movie… the acting was good. Even if it’s definitely not what I originally expected from it, I think that it really does give a sense of needing to remember where you came from which everyone can relate to, whether you’re trying to be a top star or not.
Unnichan: Absolutely. Kids, turn this on. If only for Kim Soo Ro. That man always tows the line of hysterical poignancy. But seriously, the story was food for thought and the performances were good. Kim Min Jun and Uhm Tae Woong were as great as you can imagine together and So Yi Hyun was the best I’d seen her since Alice in Cheondamdang. It never hurts to see actors do what they (should) do best.
Zombie: I agree. The actors in this film were absolutely fantastic, the story, though not what we were expecting, still made a point and provided us all with some rather valuable life lessons, all of which combine to give us a film worth watching.
So tell us, have you had a chance to watch Top Star? What did you think of the plot? Did you feel like anything was missing? What about the performances from the actors themselves? Let us know all of your thoughts in the comments below!
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