Somehow I had expected this 2009-2010 drama to be much more lighthearted than it was, partly because of the misleading posters, showing an impish grin on Yoon Shi Yoon’s face, but also because of the casting of Yoon Shi Yoon himself. The young man is delighfully ‘elven’ in his mischievious appearance and demeanor. How could he possibly carry off a melodrama?
Storyline/Synopsis: My rating 7/10
The incredibly dysfunctional Goo family has a few problems. Wealth apparently can’t buy everything, especially the long desired son and heir to the family fortune. The marriage of convenience between Goo In Jong and Seo In Sook becomes even more strained when they both have affairs, and both affairs produce sons a mere 4 months apart. In Jong is unaware that his long-time friend and right-hand-man, Han Seung Jae, is the the father of his illigitimate son, his wife’s lover and the man plotting to make sure everything goes the way the self-absorbed, vindictive, conniving Seo In Sook desires.
And what Seo In Sook desires is the removal and ruin of her husband’s mistress, Kim Mi Sun, and her son, Kim Tak Goo, and the smooth ascenscion of her own darlng son, Goo Ma Joon, to the Go Seung dynasty throne. Despite a fate that continually tries to bring the illigitimate heir back into the family portrait, Manager Han and Seo In Sook incessantly and mercilesslessly throw up roadblock after roadblock.
Script/Acting: My rating 7/10
There was a certain amount of predictability. The relentless string of tragedies that befall our heros was almost tiring. And grandma’s should learn to never, ever confront the bad guys, no matter how bad-ass their attitude is. It just always seems to end poorly for them. Sigh. And bad blood between step-brothers is almost a given. Intriguingly, in a land that prizes filial piety I believe I saw the first example of a man blackhearted enough to blackmail his own mother in a Korean drama. Although I’m not saying that the – ah – witch – didn’t deserve it. And this melodrama just got darker and darker as the scenarios twisted and the episodes marched on. The acting was, overall, quite excellent, but felt, in places, rather over the top: from about episode 20 on there was sobbing. Much, much sobbing. By everyone.
Yoon Shi Yoon (“Flower Boy Next Door”, “Me, Too, Flower”) was entertaining and engaging as Kim Tak Goo. His ability to pull off credibly a character that defied credibility was somewhat amazing. The plot twists thrown at this poor luckless character challenged the viewer’s sensibilities with their relentlessness. The character, however, was able to maintain a certain innocence and sweetness, despite living the life of a thug on the streets. (A difficult contradiction to resolve, I know, but somehow it worked.) The hopelessly agreeable nature of Tak Goo almost became an irritant, although just when you felt like giving up on what appeared to be a human doormat, his subtle methods began to transform some incorrigible into a better person.
The two women in Tak Goo’s life (aside from his beloved mother) are Shin Yoo Kyung (played by Eugene [“Creating Destiny”, “Ohlala Cuple”]) and Yang Mi Sun (played by Lee Young Ah [“Iljimae”, “Vampire Prosecutor 1 & 2”]). Yoo Kyung, his childhood sweetheart and the love of his life, becomes the ‘toy’ that little brother intends to jealously steal from the big brother he despises and yet competes with. Yoo Kyung, psychologically damaged from an abusive childhood, doesn’t play well in the competitive arena. Eugene chose this role as an opportunity to play a ‘bad girl’ for once! Mi Sun, on the other hand, is the sweet, innocent, wide-eyed and adoring Tak Goo Fan Girl. Patiently waiting, always supportive, she’s the ‘good girl’ who wants to share more than just Tak Goo’s love of baking. She is also the queen of priceless, darling facial expressions. Her mannerisms often added a much needed brightness to many a gloomy scene.
Joo Won (“Bridal Mask”, “7the Grade Civil Servant”) was a delighfully malevolent and yet bizarrely pathetic Goo Ma Joon. Psychologically stunted by an over-bearing, overindulgent mother, Ma Joon epitomized the spoiled rich kid, over-competitive and overcompensating for a weak self-esteem, unable to love or believe himself to be loveable. His goal in life is to beat Kim Tak Goo at everything no matter what it takes, despite the fact that he espouses a complete disdain for the “beggar”. The character was great fun to despise, although Joo Won’s brooding glare was more than a wee bit attractive for an antagonist. His transformations from cowardly, self-centered reprobate to a man pitiable and pathetic, to a cruel, sadistic jerk and finally to something resembling a human being required pretty mad acting skills.
Jun In Hwa was the beautiful Villainess Supreme, Seo In Sook. The unstoppable, irredeemable social goddess was the focal anti-hero in the drama, the character everyone loved to despise. She was chillingly convincing. Her male counterpart and partner-in-crime, Han Seung Jae was played by Jung Sung Mo. His was another character that viewers hated, despite his absurd, dogged belief that In Sook would one day come to him if he continued on his malevolent path.
Cinematography: My rating 7/10
Fights, slaps and wrist-grabs, oh my! There were many well-choreographed action scenes, car chases and a few drunken commotions. Poor Oh Jae Moo, the child actor starring in his very first role as the young Kim Tak Goo, failed to understand how to receive a stage slap and apparently received the full force of Jung In Hwa’s wrath in one scene. Interesting lighting and filters were used to create a dream-like sense of reverence during certain bread-baking scenes.
Music: My rating 7/10
The soundtrack is nicely varied with some great ballads, but with a few fun, upbeat tunes, as well.
End of The Day – VOS http://youtu.be/5Jww5N7BIqw
Love You To Death – KCM feat Soul Dive http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=st2j8ocw5kU
Best Ballad: Ku Saram – Lee Seung Chul http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tc5xbAR06o
Also a good ballad: Only One – Bada http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBnV3_Ews14
Kyuhyun can really belt out those ballads nicely: Hope is a Dream That Doesn’t Sleep – Kyuhyun (Super Junior) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lOFLFfzlKT8
Now Going to See – Code V http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMs2SuDtY0M
For Me – Yu Jin http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rt5UUdksQ4g
From the drama special:
Only You – Yoon Shi Yoon http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xANXeCEN_A
Sweet!: Love Is – Lee Young Ah http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EniqjE9bsmo
Fabulous voice!: My Love – Joo Won http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5OXkkpzv_b0
Overall Charisma: My rating 7/10
So, Yoon Shi Yoon in a melodrama. The result was indeed an interesting contrast in stereotypes. The irrespressibly happy nature of Yoon Shi Yoon’s character (as well as the sweet, bubbly Lee Young Ah) buoyed the melodramatic storyline creating a contrast that, while in some places appeared almost absurdly implausible, was in fact what made the drama appealing.
While the excess of sobbing scenes in the final episodes was rather over-the-top, the thematic content was necessary to plot continuty. The ending was completely predictable, yet satifactory. There were no surprises, but it followed the natural course set by the themes as they progressed throughout the drama.