12 April, 2013

Curiosity Killed the Cat: First Look at Gu Family Book

You're probably thinking: whatever in the world does that title have to do with K-drama. Well, I had the best intentions to not start any new dramas, (while RL takes over for a bit) but the conversations à la Twitter and on other blogs led me think I should give Gu Family Book a look see.

Now I am by no means convinced that I should stick with this drama, so I might wait before commencing with episodes 3, 4, 5, 6, etc., but I will admit that episodes 1 and 2 were very emotionally compelling. And there is really only one reason why: Choi Jin Hyuk. Not only is he incredibly handsome, but his mellifluously, deep voice is enough to melt the coldest heart. I think he needs to record a book or something, just so that I can listen to him speak for long periods of time. His looks, voice, and the adorably roguish smile (can those two things go together?) are not the only things that had me hooked. Probably the biggest thing was his incredibly emotive and compelling style of acting. He didn't have to do much for me to know exactly what he was thinking - but not in a crazy-over-dramatic way. Also, he seemed to ooze trustworthiness, kindness, and all things good.

Lee Yeon Hee is rather wooden and over-expressive as Yoon Seo Hwa though, and in my opinion has too modern of a look to fit really well in sageuk (even if it is fusion/fantasty sageuk). Be that as it may, Go Wol Ryung's depth of feeling more than made up for the telling of their tragic romance. I enjoyed every bit of it, and was glad to see that the story - while romantic and beautiful (and in a gorgeous setting as well) - wasn't afraid to go dark places. In the space of two episodes, we have already seen tragic loss (Seo Hwa's brother and maidservant), the terrible rape scene of Dam, the falling in love of Wol Ryung and Seo Hwa, Wol Ryung's desperate desire to become a human, the loss of love, a tragic betrayal, a pregnancy, deception (Dam Pyung Joon - gumiho-hunter extraordinaire hiding pregnant Seo Hwa), complex gisaeng politics, a birth, and a happy finding of baby gumiho by Lord Park. It was a lot, but it didn't really feel like it. It was paced very well.

But back to Choi Jin Hyuk. I think what I liked most about his portrayal of Wol Ryung is that he wasn't afraid to show the bestial side of Wol Ryung - but at the same time he showed us a fragility and despair of someone incredibly lonely who has just lost everything he loves most in the world. Oh the irony that the gumiho might be the best form of humanity in comparison to everyone else. Man, Choi Jin Hyuk knows how to emote with his eyes. Every time the camera panned to him, my heart would burst with happiness or pain. I got so teary-eyed in several of his scenes, and I was crying out to Seo Hwa to stop being so prejudiced and to see his goodness and kindness that was just oozing out of him. In that scene where he's having the flashbacks from what Monk So Jung, and you realize that he is not going to stab Seo Hwa, but she has no clue just what he is giving up, it made me want to cry even more. It was so terribly tragic and heart-breaking. And it acted as such a nice contrast to all the previous scenes of happiness shared between the two of them.

It is also really interesting just how many scenes happened at the mountain cave. We have Wol Ryung's initial protection of Seo Hwa, their love blooming, their marriage, and domestically blissful life, we have his recuperating post attack (and him bringing her back to safety again), and then it becomes a scene for her betrayal of him. Her betrayal is about destroying all that protection, love, and trust, and I still can't quite get her character in that regard. Okay, I will grant that the gumiho-monster myths are a pretty compelling source of fear, and it was probably incredibly disturbing to see the man you love being transformed into a monster, but to so quickly betray him. It makes me question the depth and sincerity of her love. I mean, she turns to the man who set-up her father as a traitor, beheaded him in front of her, and then was planning on raping her? I really don't understand. And then she finds out that Jo Kwan Woong (Lee Sung Jae) also hung her brother. I cannot quite understand how she can betray Wol Ryung for the bad guy so quickly.

As Wol Ryung is being stabbed, and holding onto her shoulder, she looked almost like she was having a moment of remorse - a little, too late. Our final episode scene then of the cave is one of a birth - a birth that Seo Hwa planned to end in death, but luckily that plan was averted by the spirit (?) of Wol Ryung. Yay! Even in his destruction, he allows life to flourish. I think he is deeply connected to that mountain cave/Moonlight Garden as he was (maybe still is?) the mountain guardian. I wonder what role the mountain cave/Moonlight Garden will play again. Seo Hwa also seemed to be completely devastated by the realization the Wol Ryung was who he said he was. As she looks on baby gumiho, and sees he's not a monster, I think her desperate wail is about the realization that in fact Wol Ryung was perhaps the essence of what it means to be a good human being - he was no monster. (I think that even gumiho-hunter seemed to think the same thing as Wol Ryung declares his love so desperately, painfully, and movingly).

Oh, another thing about Seo Hwa's betrayal - her betrayal isn't only about Wol Ryung - it's about the bigger picture of how she betrayed the spirit/guardian of the mountain who is now going to be cursed as a 1,000 year demon. The stakes were pretty big. I am glad though that for Wol Ryung it was all about loving her, and not about becoming a demon. I am sure that that story arc will come into play, and for now we don't really know the fate of Wol Ryung and Seo Hwa. I'm not even sure how much they will feature in the drama anymore actually. The narrator said that their tragic love story was over, so who knows. I have seen in some places that Choi Jin Hyuk's role was purely a cameo...and this is enough to make me hesitant about watching the drama.

So far the writing hasn't been that marvelous. Dam Pyung Joon (gumiho-hunter) seems like a really interesting character, and so does the head gisaeng, Chun Soo Ryun (Jung Hye Young). Another thing that has been bugging me - that annoying English OST number *shudders*. The rest of the OST has been beautiful, and there has been some lovely use of traditional stringed instruments as well. The camera work has been decent, and the Moonlight Garden is gorgeous. It's a pretty drama, and it could be great. My biggest hesitation though is the pairing of Seung Gi and Suzy.

Choi Jin Hyuk has done a great job of being this lovely mix of adorable puppy (future set-up to being Seung Gi's dad anyone?) and manly gumiho. He is strong, but vulnerable - and that is a combination that Seung Gi can play well. I think that watching Choi's Wol Ryung has convinced me that Seung Gi could really be his son. I am just worried about Suzy's acting inexperience, and a potential lack of chemistry between the leads. While I might have loved the first two episodes - and I could just treat this as a two episode drama, I am going to try and be cautious about dipping my toes into this pond. Let's just say that I have had my heart broken a few too many times by the K-drama gods. Then again, that baby was adorable, that might be enough to get to me to watch the next few episodes. Oh, and the hope that Choi Jin Hyuk's performance is not just a cameo.


  1. You know actually I really liked "The Eden", except I don't know how it's fitting into the drama. So far I have tried to distance myself (but read the recaps *groan*) from this drama (I'm not a huge LSG or Suzy fan), and honestly I am so hooked just looking at CJH.
    i can just watch the screencaps of CJH and deduce pretty much the WR/SH whole story, that's how good he is. the eyes are really the window of the soul!

  2. also you know, for the love of God i pray for CJH to keep his eye wrinkles, it just makes him so much manlier + cuter when he smiles and not plastic-y like some of them out there (*cough Bae Yong Joon cough*). a man has to look his age.

  3. His eyes really are that amazing! I like LSG, he can be rather pleasant to watch, it's more Suzy I am worried about. I just don't see their chemistry. I think I am going to take a look at the rest of the drama, but there is a good chance that I might drop it. We'll see.

    I think you're right about an "Eden" sequence of a tragic love story. I think it was just a great set up for our future half-gumiho - something that he will have to deal with the consequences of. I think that the gumiho story is often one of someone struggling to become human, something which we can all identify with on some level I guess ^^

  4. That's something I agree with wholeheartedly! I think it adds character (I sound like Calvin's dad from Calvin & Hobbes XD ). But, I admit, I really like the way Bae Yong Joon looks. He has a certain knowledgeable air about him, and his consistent glasses-wearing only helps that. (I wonder if he actually needs glasses to see, or if it's just a part of his image...) He reminds of Dumbledore... OTL I wonder if that's just me, though...

  5. I have no idea about whether or not he needs glasses, but man is he handsome ^^

  6. I definitely agree! I think smile lines, crow's feet, whatever show life experience and look human. It makes me think of Clint Eastwood and Robert Redford who have respectively not gotten and have gotten some work done. Eastwood looks fabulous, but not so much Redford anymore.

    My views on plastic surgery have sort of morphed though over time. Personally I don't know why people go through all the pain just to conform, but then again, I totally had braces in high school. I don't know anymore. And if someone gets reconstructive surgery? To each their own?

  7. Is is weird that I think that Clint Eastwood is still attractive these days? Oh boy, him and Paul Newman. Good looking until the very end.

  8. Not at all ^^ Paul Newman and Clint Eastwood are not only extraordinarily handsome, but they are phenomenal actors. And Eastwood is rather an excellent director. What I think it funniest though is that they were my mom's "pin-ups" when she was a teenager...

  9. Lol, my mum loved Gregory Peck and Steve McQueen, and James Bond movies. ^^

  10. i actually really liked Clint Eastwood and his rather stiff upper lip and faceless expression in Bridges of Madison County. That movie made me cry like a baby (literally).

  11. I have not seen that one, but I know my mom loved the book and the film. I mean it's Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep ^^

  12. love the role of choi jin hyuk and his wife seo hwa, i love the story both of them. choi jin hyuk is a very good actor, he act like a truly emotions in him. he act very natural. his love from his wife is a sincerity. he never give up,even though he betrayed but still he love her. i love the way he act.. very good actor.. impressive, please can we have another episode of both of them and the story is they same. please focus only of the two, and i want to add about the son i really expecting that the son will go to his father house and they will meet their his father and mother, and i want to see that the love of the father and mother to his son that abandon and never see his growing up.

    But unfortunately the story is nice.. but i think it is lacking story.

    and now choi jin hyuk is my favorite actor.

  13. Thank you for your comment! I am also so glad that this drama helped me get to know Choi Jin Hyuk. He really is so wonderful! And I love his voice!

    I think they could have made a drama with just Seo Hwa and Wol Ryung, it would have been lovely to watch!

  14. OUTSTANDING DRAMA ! <3 so very amazing <3

  15. I guess I shall just have to finish watching it then ^^ (not that I'm watching dramas again)

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