Friday Drama Review – “I Need Romance”

I-Need-Romance poster

Filled with fun, penetratingly honest girlfriend-time conversations, “I Need Romance 2012” hits the spot for those looking for a drama with romance, humor, and yes, I’ll say it, a bit of steamy sexiness.

 

The scenarios strike pretty to close to home with the abrupt, honest portrayal of human romantic relationships. No perfect, sweet, innocent love relationships here. Twisted, real, gritty, and sometimes a bit too close to the mark to avoid personal comparisons. Ack.

Yet, the basic story concept is fun, if not entirely new: women in their early thirties looking for love – sometimes in the wrong places. Of course. How else would we find comedy in pathos? And is it not every woman’s secret fantasy to have two fabulously sexy men vying for your lasting affections? I‘ll admit it even if you don’t! Oooh la la!

OK. There’s no deep, transcendent plot–line here. But hey – it’s a romantic comedy! I thoroughly enjoyed “A Gentleman’s Dignity” for many of the same reasons.

Here’s a fun trailer tvN put out. It has little to do with the actual drama, but I enjoyed it, nonetheless, as it accurately portrays the spunk and fire of our lovely ladies in a tongue-in-cheek play on American comedic drama.

 

Storyline/Synopsis: My rating 7/10

couple 1Yoon Seok Hyun and Joo Yeol Mae are childhood sweethearts – and I do mean childhood. Their parent parents were friends and built a duplex with a shared kitchen and dining space when the two were 5 years old. When Yeol Mae’s parents passed away in her late teens and Seon Hyuk’s parents and his younger sister moved to the country, the two continued living together in the pretty little house with two golden retrievers playing in the yard. Their romance began in high school. Despite their stormy, on-again, off-again relationship over the years, they remain housemates and friends.

bestiesFortunately for Yeol Mae, she has two best friends since middle school in whom she can trust, rely on, confide in and commiserate with. The three, now in their early 30’s, all have love-life challenges that keep the story intriguing. Interestingly, Seok Hyun is included in the group as the go-to guy friend who can be relied upon to give good advice from the man’s point of view.

When our story begins, Yeol Mae and Seok Hyun are in “off-again” mode. Sun Jae Gyung and Woo Ji Hee, the besties are both in less-than-ideal relationships as well, although on the surface they look great. Their love lives all become complicated, especially Yeol Mae’s, who suddenly finds herself being pursued by a man (Shin Ji Hoon) who promises to fulfill the desired affection she’s been craving, but Seok Hyun refuses to satisfy.

 

Script/Acting: My rating 7/10

leading manLee Jin Wook plays Yoon Seok Hyun, a somewhat more realistic man, in my opinion, than the sweet, empathetic, romantic heroes portrayed in most romantic comedies. Not one for over-the-top romantic gestures, Seok Hyun does not even want to get married. He has difficulty expressing emotions – especially love – but that does not stop him from being loving in his own, manly way.

Ji HoonIt was nice to see Kim Ji Suk play something other than a conniving, sleazy character. (At least, that’s all I have ever seen him cast as…) In his role as Shin Ji Hoon we were able to see him as a strong, sweet romantic (JiHoo*-like) guy worth swooning over. Somehow, this persona seemed to fit him quite well. (Hey – it’s a K-Drama – there had to be one guy that fit the standard ultra-romantic profile.)

funny faceJung Yu Mi, while very active in the movie industry, has only done a few dramas, so her character of Joo Yeol Mae was my introduction to this fine actress. Her incredibly versatile facial expressions paired with her ability to credibly create passionate love scenes were ideally suited to this role. As a self-described ‘woman with a bad personality’, she wore it as a badge of honor and carried herself with the humorous self-dignity that can only come with age and self-realization.

Kim Ji Woo as Sun Jae Gyung and Kang Ye Sol as Woo Ji Hee were also quite engaging as the best friends. Their ability to convincingly portray emotional issues associated with single women in their thirties was appealing and entertaining.

An interesting addition to the script was Kang Na Hyun (Kim Ye Won). As the young woman who works with Seok Hyun as a co-author and crushes madly on him, she eventually displays maturity beyond her years as she successfully manages her one-sided love and even counsels the emotionally stunted Seok Hyun. Although an irritant in the beginning, her character developed into one of the more intriguing and genuinely original characters of the series.

 

Cinematography: My rating 6/10

vlcsnap-14701Unlike most dramas I’ve viewed, this one made great use of stills throughout, especially during narratives. The house used for filming (at least the exterior) was adorable. Given the trendy music and interesting characters, I feel there was much more that could have been done to make the cinematography more exciting, but it was definitely adequate.

 

Music: My rating 7/10

A little trendier than most OSTs. Nice ballads and one really cool song: “I Could Give You Love”.

“Only U” 10cm http://youtu.be/cKSKWYboRgw

This is the opening song. I hated it the first time I heard it, but it grew on me fast and I realized it’s perfect for the drama. “Riding the Wind” Deli Spice http://youtu.be/TSFzPzCQCN4

Best song: “I Could Give You Love” Lasse Lindh

http://youtu.be/sCIftyzDX8g

Pretty ballad: “Have You Heard” LeeSA http://youtu.be/W0mWvEqo9Dw

Another pretty ballad: “” Page http://youtu.be/O6b-ln_rzeg

 

Overall Charisma: My rating 7/10

INR2showerThis is a drama that will definitely appeal more to older (30 years +) viewers than younger viewers. And the older the better. The more I watched, the more I realized that there’s a poignancy that only many years of screwed up relationships will really make you appreciate and identify with.

The characters were significantly more realistic than in many dramas. There was also a very pervasive lack of inhibition when it came to discussing the subject of sex. I think if this drama had been aired on SBS or MBC it would have been a very different drama, but because it was tvN, a cable channel, more liberties were taken with the script than would have been allowed in main-stream programming. Refreshing and exciting, really. 😉

 

Happy Drama Watching!

 dogslq

 

*Yoon JiHoo – Uber-romantic, uber-gorgeous, what-every-girl-wants character in “Boys Over Flowers” played by Kim Hyun Joong

 

Director: Lee Jung Hyo, Jang Young Woo

Screenwriter: Jung Hyun Jung

Friday Drama Review: “Romance Town”

Bad Title for a Good Drama

330px-Romance_TownThis drama had been on my “To Be Watched” list for quite some time as I had seen it on a few ‘Must See’ lists, but I’d been postponing because the synopses I had read did not seem that intriguing and the title gave it more of an American soap-opera feeling than I was comfortable with. I definitely needed more to entice me.

www.KoreanDrama.org – is an excellent source of information for dramas, actors and actresses, etc. Their synopses, however, vary from extremely detailed to terse. For Romance Town, the drama was described as ‘The story of domestic help who work for rich households.’ The rest of the description said little more to lead me to believe this was anything more than a gossipy group of maids, one of which become involved with the son of the household.

This drama sat at the bottom of the pile for a while.

However, at some point I was in the mood for something light and entertaining, so I pulled this from the ‘Watch List’ and began; and learned once again that another person’s synopsis can be very deceiving.

Storyline/Synopsis: My rating 8/10

‘Romance Town’ is the wrong title for this drama. While romance was part of the picture, it was not the main theme as the title would suggest. Interestingly, I thought perhaps the English title might be off the mark, but the actual title in Korean is the English words “Romance Town” spelled in Hangul! No help there!

romancetownep14previewphotoThe drama revolves around the lives and social issues of five housekeepers and one lottery ticket. A big one. A huge one, in fact. If you have ever wondered how your life might change, or how you might change if you were to suddenly become rich (or suddenly become poor), this is a drama that explores that very subject. All in all, a somewhat unique theme!

Script/Acting: My rating 6/10

The five housekeepers Sung Yu Ri, Min Hyo Rin, Park Ji Young, Lee Kyung Shil, and Kim Ye Won carried the show. The intense interactions between these characters and between the housekeepers and their employers are what made the drama come to life. Sung Yu Ri was No romance-town-33Soon Geum, the heroine of the story, was a believable and appealing character. She played the part of a kind, loyal and upright person faced with difficult moral dilemmas authentically. There were scenes where Lee Kyung Shil could be accused of over-acting the scene, but her character is written as being very high-strung. The interesting story of their friendship and how it evolves under the influences of peers, bosses and, ultimately, wealth is what makes the drama a success.

The men in the drama were somewhat weaker. This may have been partly due to the script, but the character of Kang Gung Woo played by Jung Gyu Woon seemed more pathetic than empathetic and his mood swings did not seem to make much sense. The character of Kim Young Hee (Kim Min Joon) was more consistent, but not terribly intriguing. The best written, best played male character was Hwang Yong played by Jo Sung Ha. Great part, great actor.

The romantic side stories between characters were really just that: side stories that gave the drama a little depth and breadth to fill in the edges around the main theme. But note there were interpersonal side stories that did not involve romance as well, adding extra dimension to the drama.

Cinematography: My rating 6/10

While there was nothing spectacular about the cinematography, there was nothing distracting, either. The sets were nice, but virtually everything was filmed in a very limited number of locations. The island scenes were nice – not exotic, but a refreshing change of scenery. The editing was good. There was not a lot of boring fluff added, no endless flashbacks to kill time.

Music: My rating 8/10

M favorite song from the drama is “Smile Goodbye” by Alex. (Note that it goes by a number of similarly translated names…)  It is a  fabulous song and is played in a number of versions throughout the drama. This is my ‘go-to’ happy song:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g-PU0NqxhUQ

“Because Tears are Overflowing” is an beautiful ballad sung by Jessica of SNSD:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=feg3yqvnHFc

“It’s Only You” by Tei is the theme song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-4PXPTim5U&list=PL117F07ECBA769C8E

“Only You Look” by HowL http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69lVSStn47g

The soundtrack/OST is difficult to find, but 4 songs above are currently available on iTunes.

Overall Charisma: My rating 7/10

The tension between the maids, the families and the ‘couples’ all served to keep this drama lively and interesting. It’s unfortunate that the chemistry between the main couple was not as believable as it should have been. I believe the problem was that pinning down the actual character qualities for Gun Woo seemed to be an impossible task.  Because his demeanor shifted and changed so frequently, he always seemed ‘out of character’. Other than that, the drama was unexpected enjoyable and I watched it straight through, forgoing my other dramas!

On a side note, before I end: One of the households on the block was a man with his wife and mistress all living together as man, wife and second wife. Now, this is something I haven’t seen before, except, of course, in historical dramas. To an American viewer it seemed extremely odd that while the maids resented dealing with two bossy women, it didn’t seem that weird to anyone – at least, no one seemed be bothered much. Passing this kind of situation off as conventional in an American movie or drama would seem absurd, at best. Am I missing something? Comments, please!

 Happy Drama Watching!

RomanceTownred shoe