SEOUL SEARCHING (Benson Lee). 110 minutes. Some subtitles. Opens Friday (July 22). See listing. Rating: NNN
Benson Lee’s Seoul Searching is set in 1986, when a South Korean birthright program brings teenagers of Korean extraction from all over the world to the eponymous city for the summer. (This was a real thing, we’re told, though it didn’t last very long.)
Anyone raised on John Hughes movies will recognize the vibe straight away. It’s The Breakfast Club stretched out over a few weeks: a bunch of mismatched teens are thrown together to eventually discover they’re not that different after all. Of particular interest are the punk (Justin Chon), the Madonna lookalike (Jessika Van) and the jarhead (Albert Kong), who all have at least one additional dimension beyond their chosen identities.
It’s a bit on the long side, and writer/director Lee is a little too committed to Hughes’s template of hostile kids who eventually break down and reveal their private pain. But when he drops the pretense and just lets the characters exist together, Seoul Searching can be charming and fun.