“The Princess and the Matchmaker” is a romantic historical comedy set in the Joseon period and the second entry in a loose projected trilogy from Jupiter Films concerned with Korea’s traditions of fortune-telling, following Han Jae-rim’s “The Face Reader”
The story takes place in 1753 during the reign of King Yeongjo (played by Kim Sang-Kyung). Joseon suffers because of a long-term drought with all the inevitable consequences for the country and for the people. To overcome the difficulties, King’s consultants suggest the marriage of Princess Song-Hwa (played by Shim Eun-Kyung), believing this marriage will eventually put an end to all suffering by bringing back harmony and balance to the Kingdom. King Yeongjo accepts their proposal and immediately organises a public invitation for the selection of a suitable husband in terms of marital harmony and compatibility.
Four men reach the final stage and their credentials are kept secret until their pillars and marital harmony with the Princess will be read by a fortune-teller. The fortune-teller is Seo Do-Yoon (played by Lee Seung-Gi), a skilled and upright official with a tremendous sense of duty. Princess Songhwa, being a hopeless romantic,desperately wants to see the face of her future husband before the wedding. Impulsively, she decides to exchange roles with one of her trustworthy court-made and long-term friend and leaves the palace to meet her prospective husband. During the adventures of the fearless Princess to find each one of the potential husbands, she crosses paths with Seo Do-Yoon and without knowing each other’s identities, they get involved in various hilarious incidents which inevitably will bring them all closer and closer to each other hearts.
Despite the fact that the story contains some overused elements and tropes like a princess exchanging roles with her court-maid, cross-dressing, righteous officer, over-the-top villains, all the aforementioned are utilised for the benefit of the movie and not for its dismissal. In addition, writer Lee So-mi pens a fairly coherent story with few secrets to be revealed by the end of the movie, creating a feeling of suspense. The only drawback is the uneven pace of the movie’s narrative between the first and second half, with the latter being noticeably quicker in terms of the revelation of events.
Moreover, the movie delivers genuine and unforced laughs, resulting in a well-made comedy. Regardless of being a romantic comedy, it includes many underlying messages about acceptance or not of fate and about going against society’s musts as well. Furthermore, the background music is carefully selected for each scene in a way that facilitates the lighthearted mood or the buildup of emotions.
Actress Shim Eun-Kyung portrays princess Songhwa exceptionally well and her facial expressions change in a matter of seconds to suit every situation, funny or sad. She shows every bit of emotion, in exaggerating sometimes fashion, perfectly fitting the aesthetics of the movie. On the other hand, charismatic Lee Seung-GI is more restricted with his acting and toned down expressions. The restricting expressions perfectly fit Seo Do-Yoon’s personality characteristics – a man torn between his strong sense of duty and the protection of a valuable family member.
Furthermore, the beautiful, vivid costume design and the dazzling production design are also among the highlights of the movie, while the cinematography is utterly beautiful and most of the scenes are truly breathtaking and visually stunning. On a final note, worth mentioning are the sporadic special effects and the beautiful flying letters, which add an extra dimension to the movie. Also, the few fighting scenes are quite impressive and well-created.
I thoroughly recommend this enjoyable movie for all fans of romantic historical movies who will no doubt be thrilled. Especially fans of movies with strong-willed independent heroines unwilling to follow the life path been chosen by others, should not miss this.