02 July, 2012

Beloved: First Impressions

A few days ago: 

I'm scrolling through my Facebook feed, and feeling kind of overwhelmed by all the dramas I'm watching right now, especially because I'm behind due to a couple of days spent in an area without internet access.  And what comes up but a post from DramaFever announcing a new drama on their site:  Beloved.  

It's kind of a tacky promo photo, but boy oh boy are the people on it rather beautiful.  Kim Min-joon, at the left, is his usual suave, handsome self; the woman in the middle, Park Sol-mi, is quite lovely, and then I spot Mr. Hong Jong-hyun over on the right, and what does my overdramawatching self do?!  

What any normal Hong Jong-hyun fangirl would do: I click on the link to watch the first episode.

*Pauses story*

Apparently, if there's Hong Jong-hyun, I don't need to worry about the genre or plot line.  Apparently, it's just worth it to give the drama a try and hope that it will be as lovely and perfect as Hong Jong-hyun is.

Sanity aside (or lack thereof), I'm both pleased and displeased that I started this drama, and though I don't know that I will be watching the whole series, I am happy that I started it.

Now let me introduce you to the series, since you may not have heard of it quite yet.  

This drama is called 친애하는 당신에게/Chinaehaneul Dangshin/Dear You/Beloved.  All of the subtitled videos I've been watching have been called Beloved, so we'll go with Beloved.  The synopsis goes like this: Seo Chan-joo and Go Jin-se's marriage is tested when their former lovers come back into their lives.  It stars Park Sol-mi, Hong Jong-hyun, Kim Min-joon, Choi Yeo-jin, Bae Noo-ri, Goo Bon-seung, and Park Shi-eun.  It's PD is Jo Hyun-tak, and it is written by Kim Ji-eun.  It's currently airing on cable channel jTBC on Wednesdays/Thursdays and is a 16-episode romantic melodrama.

Now if I had known all this prior to watching, I probably wouldn't have touched it, because I'm kinda picky about my melos.

*Un-pauses story*

I'm starting the first episode, and immediately, 99% of my excitement and curiosity is killed.  I'm watching a wedding scene, and the camera is all over the place, and everyone is overly exciting, and there's a lot of yelling and big reactions.  Hong Jong-hyun shows up:  Wait, he's getting married?!  I'm not thinking this as a fan, but as a viewer wondering why the heck an actor of 22, who looks his age, is getting married.  Doesn't everyone get married in their 30s in K-dramas (and teens too, but that's beside the point)?  Then we get to see the woman he's getting married to, and I'm more confused, because there's no way she's in her twenties.  She doesn't seem particularly excited about getting married, and I don't think I'm the only one confused about whether it's right for these two to get married. Anyhow, the couple gets married, everyone parties, the scene ends... finally.  Thank heavens I still had that 1% of curiosity left.

Three years later, we find the woman who just got married, Seo Chan-joo (played by Park Sol-mi), laying in bed... by herself.  Then she wakes up, and we find her husband, Go Jin-se (played by Hong Jong-hyun!) making breakfast for the two of them.  It appears they are still a happy couple.  Throughout the episode, however, it is made clear that their marriage really isn't as stable as the both of them would like to think, especially when ye old loves show up, as they normally do in K-dramas.

Go Jin-se's fist love is now a dancer named Hong Ran (played by Bae Noo-ri) and apparently, she was his first love when he was young(-er), and he feels responsibility for her since her parents died and she moved away and he never went to see her like she had asked him to.

Seo Chan-joo's love is an ex who's quite the... ummm... how do I say that nicely?  I can't.  He's Choi Eun-hyuk (played by Kim Min-joon), and he dumped Seo Chan-joo three years before to marry another woman.  She was heartbroken and angry, and it seems that she got married herself out to spite Eun-hyuk. 

Seeing the problem now?

I usually find it uncomfortable to watch anything where the story revolves around cheating,  and this drama isn't necessarily an exception.  However, this drama has some interesting things going for it, and the fact that I have so many things to say about it after only watching two episodes says something, so I'm going to start with the good things.

I read the reviews on DramaFever and they were all pretty negative, and the prevalent adjective seemed to be boring, which I think is interesting since I haven't found this drama boring at all so far.  The drama doesn't move quickly, and some of the editing and transitions have been a bit shoddy, but enough happens, and the plot has progressed more than I expected by the end of the second episode.  The pace feels assured, so I don't feel that it drags by any means.  However, if the characters or story doesn't hook you, it'd probably be pretty boring.

Despite my initial, and decently negative, reaction to the main couple, they grew on me pretty quickly and by the end of the first episode I was pretty much on board with them.  However, the casting is weird, and yet it works... oddly.

Park Sol-mi is almost exactly 12 years older than Hong Jong-hyun.  Yep, 12 years.  She's 34 years old and he's 22.  I'm guessing they're both supposed to be in their late 20s in the drama, but he definitely looks like he's 22 and she kinda looks 34.  Due to this, I was worried about their chemistry, and whether they could feel natural with each other, especially in their romantic scenes, but I've been happily surprised, and they feel pretty natural together (that is, after the awkward wedding scene).  I do feel it's more of Hong Jong-hyun's problem, since there's really not a way to make him look older, and hearing him called "ajusshi" really doesn't feel right.  Anyhow, I became more comfortable with this pairing after getting to watch each with their perspective former loves.  

Bae Noo-ri is 19 years old, so seeing her with Hong Jong-hyun feels much more comfortable.  However, I've also found the character, Hong Ran, to be shallow and manipulative, and while it feels more natural when he is with her, since they both look and act younger, I just can't get on board with them.

Kim Min-joon is almost 36 years old, and his character, Eun-hyuk fits perfectly with the image of Park Sol-mi's Chan-joo.  They're both more mature looking and acting.  However, I've found him (Eun-hyuk, that is) to be a total jerk and the closest character that comes to mind is Eric Moon's Kang Tae-joo in Que Sera Sera (2007). Basically, while their chemistry makes more sense (and is on fire...), it's a REALLY unhealthy relationship.  What kind of guy dumps you, then decides life is hell with a woman he married for money, and when deciding to get a divorce, asks you to leave your husband and come live with him?  To put it kindly, he's a complete and utter jerkish weakling.  Grrr.  

Because of this, I appreciate and very much like the relationship depicted between Seo Chan-joo and Go Jin-se, because they make each other HAPPY.  They obviously have some problems (like being honest with each other in certain situations, eek!), but they have a healthy relationship.  He makes breakfast for her, and complains about her drinking water out of the pitcher.  They both work, though he'd like to be able to support them both.  They're partners, friends, lovers, husband and wife.  I feel like the relationships that are depicted with their previous loves are very much like the ones we see in a lot of K-dramas.  Eun-hyuk is the handsome, cold man that hurts the woman he loves... but he still loves her with a fiery passion... so it's okay, right?  Or in Hong Ran's case- she's Jin-se's first childhood love, so that should mean they are destined to be together.  Right?  This is why I like Chan-joo and Jin-se... because their relationship is healthy and kind of unconventional in K-dramas.

I'm enjoying the performances, though there are a few I'm not sold on yet.  Hong Jong-hyun is charming, if a bit lacking in more dramatic scenes.  The boy's still learning, but I'm happy to see him in a leading role.  I've never seen Park Sol-mi before, and while she's veered a little too cute in a couple of scenes, she has shined in her dramatic scenes.  Kim Min-joon, I'll admit, I'm a little disappointed in.  He's super handsome, and has a lot of charisma, but his character is such a depressing sponge, and I don't like him.  Kim Min-joon does moody well, but I'm really hoping some more likable character traits are revealed soon.  Bae Noo-ri... sometimes I like her, sometimes I don't.  Choi Yeo-jin is one of my favorite K-drama actresses, and although her character (Choi Eun-hyuk's rich wife, Baek In-kyung) is kind of a robot (with some human moments), she's gorgeous and effective, and is a nice foil to Chan-joo.

As I said before, the editing and transitions have not been perfect (like the slide shows that introduce a new setting... ), but mostly good.  I started watching this on DramaFever, but I had to stop in the middle of the first episode, because I thought it was a horrible looking drama.  Only when I started it up again on Hulu did I realize that it's because the quality on DramaFever is horrible (because I don't do Premium).  This is a beautiful looking drama.  I've been feeling kind of low since I ended The Devil (2007) because all of the other dramas I'm watching aren't nearly as beautiful.  I like long shots and interesting angles and while Beloved isn't quite as masterful, it's the closest thing to it that I'm currently watching (besides God of War, but that's a sageuk, so it's in a different category in my head).  It's not as glossy as some of the other things I'm watching, but it has a simplicity and cleanness to it that's VERY appealing.

The writing has been... okay.  These two episodes have been a lot of set-up, and I don't it was very effectively done.  I find myself still wondering about certain things, and other things don't feel like they meet up, and that's one of the reasons that I'm still going on with this drama.  But I do hope that the writing gets better.

The music has been fine, and has had some interesting choices.  I particularly liked the scene when Chan-joo's in the bar with the live performer signing and the end of a flashback of her sobbing molds with the end of the singer's song.  There hasn't been a cute pop-song yet, so I'm grateful for that.

In general, I like melodramas.  They don't pretend to be anything else.  Whenever I see Boys Over Flowers (2009) or most trendies labeled as romantic comedies, I have to laugh because of the pain they gave me with their evil mothers, spiteful exes, and noble idiocy.  When a K-drama is labeled as a melodrama, I sigh in relief, because I don't have to be wary about its content.  However, melodramas can still be pretty annoying.  

I'm still not sold on this drama, and though I don't find its story very fresh, there's enough that I like to keep going for now...  And there's Hong Jong-hyun.  I'd say he's enough to keep me going for a little while.

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  1. I have almost same impressions as you about this drama, but I followed it from the very beginning. I was searching about Kim Min Jun acting and I wasn't disappointed: he's very good, it is no easy to accept this kind of character.
    Somewhere, on first episodes,Go Jin tells to his wife something about the gap between their ages. So, as a matter of fact he was chosen especially because he was 22. Every time Chan Joo use this as an explanation about their separation.
    Somehow I can understand Eun Hyuk because he's regretting so badly 7 years of his life spent with Chan Joo. He's showing so much affection to her because he mean it. He was marrying his wife because he was trapped: "there is someone who needs me more" he said when explained to Chan Joo about his wedding plans. So helping was his first intention, because of her illness. So now, when everything is going better, when his wife became a slave owner ( he's just as a slave), when the Uncle used him for illegal funds,he wants his freedom back.
    He helped Chan Joo all along, with the magazine, so he loved her not as the mother of his unborn child, but as the woman that it worth to be loved. He struggles all way long to get free, he's beaten, he's injured, he's insulted, but he don't want to change his mind. The only reason why he's not with Chan Joo up to the end is a bad timing.
    Believe me that this drama was obsessive for me: despite the preview, I was trying to make up a story, imaging Chan Joo happy. I was very surprised about 16 episodes, when, in the first place they said 20.
    The music was also a dream and I'm very satisfied finding it now, on youtube.
    Briefly, I consider Beloved a very good drama, different from all others, with no violence, no tough words, clean, feelings only. Very touching.
    But people changed choices lately.

  2. Thank you for your thoughts, and sorry that it took me so many months to reply!! Actually, because of your thoughts and because of a few other things, I think I may take this drama back up and finish it sometime since it had a lot of interesting things going for it.