Following their high school graduation three best friends must decide on their paths in life. Studious Kyeong-jae (Kang Ha-neul (강하늘) opts to attend a respectable university, where he quickly falls for the charms of senior Jin-joo (Min Hyo-rin (민효린); poverty-stricken artist wannabe Dong-woo (Junho (준호) decides to retake his final year, becoming close to Kyeong-jae’s sister So-hee (Lee Yoo-bi (이유비); while handsome-yet-stupid Chi-ho (Kim Woo-bin (김우빈) is aimless until meeting actress Eun-hye (Jung Joo-yeon (정주연) despite already dating So-min (Jeong So-min (정소민). The one thing they all agree upon however is they all want sex, and lots of it.
Surprisingly entertaining and often laugh-out-loud funny, Twenty is an enjoyable comedy by director Lee Byeong-hun. As a youthful sex comedy the film is an undoubtedly silly affair and has little substance, yet it has enough quips and gags to ensure that it’s an amusing viewing experience.
One of great pitfalls of youth-sex comedies is the objectification of women through the lustful gazes of cliched lustful male protagonists, and director Lee Byeong-hun wisely sidesteps such eye-rolling banality. While the three friends initially occupy stereotypical roles and take predictably alternative routes after graduation accordingly, the characterisation later becomes more fluid and develops as the narrative progresses. Furthermore, rather than have the camera fetishise their love interests to generate laughs, many of the jokes are derived from the trio’s stupidity and naivety in both love and adulthood. Indeed, the females are often far more mature and intellectually superior compared to their male counterparts, with their especially frank attitudes towards sex and masturbation offering some of the film’s best jokes. Although twenty years old, in many ways Chi-ho, Kyeong-jae and Dong-woo are still boys and as such the gags come thick and fast at their expense.
The narrative also eschews any coming-of-age morality from the proceedings which makes the film a little vacuous, yet director Lee manages to allude to, and poke fun at, many of the features of modern Korean life. As with his previous film Cheer Up Mr. Lee, the helmer/scribe produces jokes from the ridiculous situations that arise on film sets, though isn’t afraid to highlight the darker areas of ‘sponsors’ (aka ‘sugar daddies’). The manner in which young people seem to record everything seeming by instinct, especially in university rites of passage, is a fun dig at youth culture, while bittersweet jokes are also garnered from financial hardship.
Twenty loses its way as it enters the final act, as director Lee appears unsure of how to end his tale of boyhood silliness, which culminates in some contrived pairings and a rather random confrontation with some local gangsters. It’s all laughably farcical and slapstick, though does continue for too long and hints that some more stringent editing could have been employed, yet it’s nevertheless an entertaining and enjoyable experience, and in a time when so many productions emerging from the industry are so dark, Twenty is a refreshing change.
Director Lee Byeong-hun’s youth-sex comedy Twenty is a surprisingly enjoyable affair, particularly as the helmer/scribe steers away from cliches and objectification to generate laughs from the silliness and naivety of young men. It’s farcical and contains little substance, but as the gags continue to roll Twenty is a consistently fun, lighthearted, and one of the more successful Korean comedies in quite some time.